You already know the above-board ways to save money at Home Depot--coupons, price match guarantee, Home Depot credit card.
Despite being a billion-dollar corporation, Home Depot's pricing is surprisingly flexible and can often (but not always) work in the customer's favor. Here are some shrewd ways of securing lower prices at Home Depot.
1. Negotiate Lower Prices for Less-Than-Perfect Merchandise
Like any store, Home Depot has less-than-perfect items on its shelves. When you see a product that isn't perfect, talk to a store associate about getting a discounted price. It happens more frequently than you can imagine.
Recently, I observed as a man peered down the length of a 16 foot piece of lumber and said to the store associate, "Yeah, I'd pay for a straight one, but I don't feel comfortable paying full price for a crooked piece. Can you discount me this?" After conferring with another associate, the first associate dropped the price by 50%. I looked at the board in question and didn't see much wrong with it. In fact, lumber that long often has waves in it. And it's not all that hard to nail a crooked board in straight. But the man technically had a point.
2. Ask for a Price That Makes More Sense Than the Listed Price
Not everything in Home Depot is neatly boxed up and sealed away. Many products are difficult to classify and affix a price to.
Home Depot wanted to charge me $9.95 for each piece of 18" by 18" slate. If they had a more logical way of pricing natural stone, such as by weight, this would not be an issue.
But I was now pulling out the dregs: small, dinner plate-sized pieces that were in no way worth ten bucks each. So I cobbled together piles, each pile comprising (what I felt) was an 18" by 18" section. They took me on my word. It was a win-win. I got a fair price and they got to move merchandise.
3. If Home Depot Has a Product on Display But Not Available, You May Get a More Expensive Item at the Lower Cost
While this one is not exactly a Home Depot policy, putting a customer first is--so you might be able to leverage it to your advantage. I've done this before, and here's how it works.
Let's just say that Home Depot has a cheap Ryobi hammer drill on display. You want it; you're ready to buy right now. But--oops. It's not on the shelves. Find a store associate and communicate how much you want this drill. You really need it for the toilet flange you are installing (because you actually do need it now). You ask if you can have the next-price-up corded Makita hammer drill for the same price. Home Depot likes to please: it's a deal.
4. Find the 70% Off Bin and Other Shelves with Authentic Bargains
Totally an above-board way of saving money, one that doesn't require any negotiations.
Home Depot's lumber section nearly always has a bin or cart in the farthest, darkest reaches of the store where the lumber is marked down 70%. Much of this is cut lumber that a customer never claimed or miscuts by a Home Depot associate. Other products are simply weirdo things that no one wants--but you just might.
The second bargain area I like features all other types of items (tools, lights, adhesives, whatever) usually in on an end aisle way in back of the store.
5. Home Depot Karma May Get You--In a Good Way
The one is ethics-dependent and some people may cringe at this. As a life-long shopper at the big orange box, I feel it's part of how our relationship works.
If you shop at Home Depot long enough, they will eventually overcharge you. No malice is intended. It's a case of a clerk counting out--and charging you for--50 concrete pavers, when you've only got 42 in the cart. You discover this two weeks later and you're caught in an untenable situation. Go back to the store and claim those pavers, solely on the basis of your word? Not likely. I've discovered that this flows back to you eventually.
In one notable instance, I bought a $40 Cadet Baseboard Heater for one penny--discovered only weeks later when I tried to return it (here's another "one penny" story from The Consumerist). Best advice to prevent Home Depot from overcharging you in the first place: watch the clerk like a hawk; check the receipt after the purchase; and select the "email receipt to me" option so that you will never lose it.