Just because people have disposable income doesn't mean they want to waste it. In a survey of 3,000 American adults, the vast majority -- 89% -- said they shop at discount retailers, and 58% reported shopping at dollar stores, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

"Looking for the best price is a habit that cuts across almost every demographic," NRF Vice President for Research Development and Industry Analysis Mark Mathews said in a press release. "Regardless of income or generation, virtually everyone wants a bargain whether it's for everyday necessities or big-ticket splurges."

People carry shopping bags.

Most Americans are bargain shoppers. Image source: Getty Images.

Money matters

According to the survey, 89% of people earning less than $50,000 a year choose to shop at discount retailers, but nearly the same percentage of those who make $50,000 to $100,000 do, too -- 88%. And those who make over $100,000 a year are actually marginally more likely to seek a discount -- 90%.

"Off-price and discount shopping took off during the recession as price-conscious consumers looked to save on everything from brand-name goods to everyday household purchases," wrote the  shows. "Now, eight years into the economic recovery, consumers continue to hunt for deals and discounts."

While shoppers were on the hunt for bargains across all product categories, clothing was the one most commonly purchased at discount retailers, with 75% of those surveyed saying they did so. That was followed by groceries (71%), home decor and furnishings (62%), personal care and beauty products (60%) and electronics (52%).

In terms of which types of discount stores win the most business, 58% of respondents said they shop at dollar stores, while 50% patronize off-price chains such as Ross and T.J. Maxx -- the same percentage that said they frequent discount grocery chains like Aldi or Trader Joes. Outlet stores drew just 44% of respondents, while 36% said they buy things at thrift stores.

"Even those who can afford to shop elsewhere love finding a 'steal,' and it's a habit that's here to stay," Matthews added.

Not every bargain is a deal

Saving money and finding deals clearly drives most shoppers, but price is not everything. It's important to consider value as well as cost when you make a purchase. For example, an inexpensive shirt that starts to fade or develop holes after just a few washes may be a far poorer value than one that costs more, but wears better.

Off-brand coffee pods may be cheaper, but do they deliver a cup of Joe with a comparable taste? Is a discount sofa or mattress the right choice if it's neither comfortable nor durable?

As the NRF survey reveals, practically all of us are at least sometimes thrifty shoppers -- but it's also important to be smart about our bargain hunting. Some items cost more because they're worth more -- and getting a deal on that kind of product is where you find real value.

Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends The TJX Companies. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.