In the words of writer
Franklin Jones, "A bargain is something you don’t need at a price you
can’t resist.” And we couldn’t agree more.
With the biggest spending season of the
year looming ahead, it’s time to brush up on your shopping smarts. Don’t
get caught springing for something you can’t afford! This year, give
yourself the gift of an intact budget and a credit card balance that
doesn’t haunt you for months or years to come.
Here’s when that steal of a deal you can’t wait to show off to your friends is not such a bargain after all.
The price might be right. But, if the heavily marked-down
item is one you don’t need, you’re not getting a bargain at all. You’re
just blowing money you could be using to put into savings or purchase
stuff you actually do need.
Those flashy signs and hyped-up ads are
enough to blind the most discerning shopper, so think carefully before
plunking down your money on sale items. If an item is marked down 75%,
ask yourself: Would I ever buy this item at full price? Would I buy it
if the price was slashed just 30%?
Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to be cheap. If
an item is retailing at a ridiculously low price, inspect it carefully.
Hold it up to this checklist to determine its quality and durability:
Costco, we’re looking at you! Sure, that gigantic package
of peanuts that looks like it can feed a herd of elephants is insanely
cheap, but who are you kidding here? We both know there’s no way your family can eat it before they start going bad. And there’s no money saved when half of an item gets chucked into the trash.
Before buying in bulk to snag a great deal, be sure the food won’t go rancid or get stale before you can eat it.
Retailers often use underhanded strategies to attract consumers. One of these tactics is featuring an item’s price as a "sale price” when, in reality, the store has never sold it for more than the tagged amount.
Sometimes, the store operators will be
basing their sale price on an inflated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail
Price (MSRP). But if the MSRP was artificially inflated from the start,
you’re not really getting a bargain, are you?
Other times, the item will come with a pre-marked-down
MSRP. The manufacturer’s label might read: "Original price: $49.99. Our
price: $39.99.” Of course, the item was never sold at $49.99 and the
retailer is just playing games with you. If an item is really marked down, you’ll see a new price tag slapped on top of the manufacturer’s label with the newer, lower price.
Rebates are a retailer’s best friend.
Most of us are just too lazy or forgetful to mail them in. So, we
instead end up paying the full price with the retailer getting the last
laugh. For instance, in one TiVo subscription promotion that included a
mail-in rebate deal, a whopping $5,000,000 was never claimed.
If you’re the super-responsible type who
doesn’t know the meaning of procrastination, enjoy those rebate deals.
But, for the rest of us mere mortals, it only pays to pick up a rebate
item with an instant at-the-register rebate. Otherwise, consider the
item as being marked at its regular price.
Avoid liquidation sales like crime-ridden
neighborhoods. While shoppers sometimes snag great deals at these
sales, liquidation events are ripe with rip-offs. Retailers post signs
claiming "Everything Must Go!” – but that’s where the honesty ends. The
"Rock Bottom Prices” they advertise are often as high as the original
MSRP – or even higher. The store owners are depending on shoppers to
assume that all items are bargain-priced just because they’re at a
liquidation sale. Don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes! Stay away
from liquidation sales or proceed with extreme caution.
Sometimes a bargain is just that. But too
often, what we think is an incredible deal is just another item we
don’t need with a perfectly ordinary price.