By Lynsey Mukomel

Money-conscious consumers love a smart buy, even if sometimes that means driving an extra 15 minutes to save 20 percent.

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Saving money is especially important to the families sending their loved one off to college for the first time. In addition to financing for classes and the gourmet cafeteria food, housing expenditures seem to add up quicker than you can say, “Who is buying the mini-fridge?”

According to campus representatives, Michigan State University will be welcoming more than 8,000 freshman into their on-campus housing this fall, and the University of Michigan will be welcoming more than 6,000. Hypothetically speaking that’s more than 14,000 shower caddies.

The move into a dorm is stressful enough let alone getting everything checked off the packing list, but one California dad has developed a system that can help families determine where they’ll get the best deal on that new futon – which will likely double as a closet after a week.

Kyle James is the founder and owner of, a site devoted to helping people save money. His recent article, “Retailer’s Big Secret: Crack the Price Tag Code”, reveals major retailers’ pricing systems, and how buyers can interpret price tags to figure out if the item is worth purchasing or if it would be beneficial to look elsewhere.

James said his research started last September, when he was able to figure out systems for Target, Home Depot, Sears and Costco. From there readers began calling with additional information on the codes, and even employees from different stores would add their own input, he said. His website now explains how to crack the code for 14 retailers.

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James enjoys knowing he’s helping people’s bank accounts. “We have three kids, so I’m always trying to find new and creative ways to make my paycheck go as far as possible,” he said.

For example, his article showed the proper way to read a Sam’s Club price tag.

  • A price ending in a one – like $9.51 – means the item is on clearance and at its lowest price
  • A letter is always in the upper right hand corner of the tag
    • “A” for an “active item” that the store normally carries
    • “N” for items that should always be in stock and are “never out”
    • “C” for “canceled items,” which means the item will either be on clearance soon or is already at its lowest price.

Another good Sam’s Club trick James noted is that the display models that have a “C” on their tag can be sold for an extra 20 percent off, since it is the last one in the store. The shopper just needs to ask for it to be dismantled.

In addition to creating the price code manifesto, James put together a PDF version of each store’s system, which can be printed out and carried as a reference while shopping.

Visit his website for more money-saving tips, and stop putting off that college shopping list before the good sale items run out.

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Lynsey Mukomel is a senior at Columbia College Chicago studying Broadcast Journalism. Upon graduating she will be applying for on-air reporting jobs, and hopes to one day pursue investigative reporting. In addition to securing competitive internships in the Chicago area, she works for her school and anchors a weekly webcast. To learn more about Lynsey visit her website at