If "Let's do this" brings bright orange to mind, you must be a Home Depot regular like me. I've spent more hours of my life (and more dollars) than I care to admit in the aisles of this big box stand-by. There was a stretch – while in the trenches of renovating a big old triplex we bought in Detroit – that the mere scent of Home Depot (a mélange of fresh lumber, hot dogs, paint, chemicals, and desperation) upon walking in would raise my heart rate because I knew it meant our rapidly dwindling funds were about to take another giant hit. (Other people, it turns out, like the smell!)
I made so many trips there, in fact, that when I'd get up in the morning my phone would tell me the traffic situation en route to the nearest Home Depot (I guess it thought I worked there?) Throughout these many trips I've learned a few things and am happy to share them with you, my partners in DIY.
Price Matching (Plus %10)
See something you have to have but know it's on sale at Lowe's or another store? No need to make a separate trip. You can score the same price – in fact they'll beat it by ten percent. Just show them the ad and voilà, a little more cash in your pocket. Their "Guaranteed Low Price" deal doesn't include online prices, but I've found that showing the cashier the price on Amazon will land us an exact match, and sometimes that's a pretty substantial savings. And keep an eye on prices after your purchase too – if it goes on sale at Home Depot within 30 days you can get a refund on the difference.
Price Tags Tell You Lots
Price tags can tell you more than just the current price. Yellow tags signal clearance items, while white tags mean full price. If you're wondering whether an item will go on sale, look at the last numbers of the price. When it ends in .06, it's at 50% off, and there's six weeks to go until it's marked down again. If the last numbers are .03, it's 75% and the item will be closed out after three weeks. This is probably the lowest it will go, so snap it up if it's something you've been eyeing.
Oops Paint Bargains
Like most hardware stores (including Menards), paint that is either returned by a customer, or mixed incorrectly by a store employee, is re-tinted then placed on the shelves for sale. You can buy gallons for a serious discount if you aren't terribly picky about color.
Returns are Easy
Returning items at Home Depot, even after they've been opened, is much easier and less painful than at other stores. Although their official policy says that products must be unopened, as long as they are unused and you've still got the original packaging, chances are very good they'll take the item back. Another perk is that, if you've lost your receipt, they can look up your receipt on their computer using the credit card you originally used to make the purchase. Instead of getting store credit, the amount can go right back on your card.
I've even read that live plants, bushes, trees, and flowers have a one-year guarantee. So, if your black thumb does what it likes to do, and your plant dies within 360 days, you bet you can return it. You might have to dig it up first but...
Rebates = Serious Savings
You can score some serious savings with rebates. Home Depot's site lists tons of rebate options, so before you head out shopping for, say, a fridge, take a look. You may just find that the super nice one you thought was out of reach becomes a possibility after you take a hundred bucks or more off the price. And Home Depot doesn't just list manufacturer's rebates; they also tell if your local utility company, for example, offers a rebate for an energy efficient appliance, or for recycling an old appliance.
Of course you have to be strict with yourself for this to really work – you're still paying full price up front. My approach is to put the item on a credit card and flag that rebate for payment on the card. It can also take many weeks to get your rebate, so factor that into your decision.
Bulk Pricing for Big Spenders
If you find yourself spending a lot one day, head on over to the Pro Desk and ask about bulk pricing. According to the Home Depot website, "If your total adds up to $1,500 (or $1,000 in select markets, check with your local store), you probably qualify for a volume discount...Quotes can be processed by the Pro Desk any time and most requests are priced immediately."
Damaged Goods are Your Friend
I didn't actually know this until I started trolling around the internet, but apparently Home Depot employees are authorized to knock something off (it's rumored to be up to $50) the price of items. If a box is damaged, for example, or there's a small scratch on something, or even if you're buying in bulk, they may just give you a discount – it never hurts to ask!
Home Depot Truck Rental
An awful lot of stuff that people buy at Home Depot requires a truck to get home. If you don't have a truck – or a very good friend with one – just rent one there. If you're super quick and can get the truck home and back in 75 minutes you're looking at $19. It starts adding up fast after that, at five bucks for every 15 minutes so this is probably only a good idea if you live nearby and can go lickety-split. When we bought insulation to blow in our attic – an (ill-advised) all day DIY project — it ended up being cheaper to rent a truck from a car rental.
Moral Canine Support is Welcome
File this under "call ahead and check first and of course please be considerate," but Home Depots are generally dog-friendly. Our big boy Cassius Thunderpaws LOVES going to Home Depot. Staff pet him and give him treats and he makes all kinds of new friends. It's also a great place to socialize and train a young dog. We started taking Cash to hardware stores at eight weeks old. The exposure to sights, sounds, smells, and people is invaluable for a growing pup – it's actually one of our trainer's favorite places to take dogs. Shelling out all that money seems somehow less painful when your best friend joins you on the outing.
Sometimes you encounter staff who are just there for a job. But you can also find people who've retired from a profession and now work in the department related to that job. We were lucky enough to find a retired painter on one of our Home Depot runs who patiently spent a very long time with us picking out the right tools and demonstrating how to use them. With his pro tips I saved a lot of pain and extra work.
Use In-Store Pick Up
You know the feeling. The hours are slipping away and you've GOT to get this project finished. Naturally you need just this one thing from Home Depot. It's a big store and no matter how much time you spend there – and especially if you go to more than one and they have a bit different layouts – there are times you have to scour the whole store looking for that single weird item. Or maybe you need an exact thing that comes in, like, a hundred variations. Let somebody else do the hunting for you and order online for in-store pick-up. This is my personal favorite. It's SO much easier to search the site to find what you need. Then all you have to do is breeze into the store and pick up your bags.
An added bonus? You just have to go to the service desk, so you eliminate the impulse buy option.
Snacks for the Hangry
Finally, if you happen to find yourself in Home Depot running on fumes, bordering on hangry, hours since your last or next meal and totally frazzled, you can find a family size bag of peanut M&Ms at the check-out. The combo of sugar and protein – while not what anyone would call a health food – has kept me from a total meltdown more than once.