|Spending Smarts: Surfing the Sales
18-HOUR SALE! BACK-TO-SCHOOL BONANZA! PRESIDENTS DAY SPECIAL!
Sometimes it seems like life is one big, long sale, doesn't it? It can get really confusing. How do you know you're really getting something for a reduced price? How do you make smart spending choices when there's so much pressure to buy, buy, buy? Here are some important things to think about:
Is it really such a great bargain?
Before you buy something that's marked down or on sale, think about this: Why is it on sale anyway? Sometimes, stores will lower the price of something because so far, nobody wants to buy it. If you buy a t-shirt on sale that you don't really like that much, or is halfway falling apart, you've just wasted money. A bargain means getting something great at a great price, not getting something so-so at a great price.
Are you really "saving money"?
You've probably come across price tags that look something like this: "Full Price: $249.00, Sale Price: $49.99." It looks like if you buy this item, you'll be saving $200.00, doesn't it? Well, not exactly. Usually, that big price was never meant to be the real price of the item, and a store will just put that on the tag to convince you that you're getting an awesome deal (keep a lookout for words like "Suggested Retail Price"). If the item doesn't look like it's worth $250.00, it probably isn't. What matters is the $49.99 that you'd actually be spending; after all, it's not like the $200.00 that was "marked off" the price tag is going to magically appear in your pocket. Ask yourself if this item is really worth the price it is now, and make your decision based on that.
Don't believe big markdowns
It doesn't matter what something used to cost; it only matters what it costs now. If you're tempted to buy a sweater because it's $100.00 less than its original price, try to focus on whether it's a good deal at the CURRENT price, and if you really think you'll wear it. If it's something you like, you have the money, and it's a fair price, that's a good buy.
Relax and take your time
Stores and companies know that when people take the time to really think about the things they buy, they will buy fewer things. They need you to buy NOW, before you have a chance to think about it, so they put a big "SALE" sticker on it.
Remember: There will always be another sale (some stores seem to have them all year) and there will always be more cool things to buy. Take it easy, take it slow, and always comparison shop.
When Sales Are A Good Thing
Okay, so we now know that "sales" are often tricks that stores use to make you buy stuff you wouldn't normally buy. But sales can help you too, and here's how:
When you're going to buy something anyway,
it's better to get it at a sale price rather than full price.
Say you've been dying for a new bathing suit. The one you wore last year is now a little too small and besides, you want to make a splash with something new! Now that you've got to go shopping, why pay full price? Look for a deal this way:
- Keep an eye on the newspaper ads. Is there a clothing or department store that's having a sale? Check out the suits they offer and see if you spot anything you like that's selling for a good price.
- Ask about sales. If you're in a store and you find something that you think you might want to buy, ask a salesperson if they're having any sales now or in the near future. There may be a sale starting next week, and if you wait, you could get a good discount on that perfect swimsuit.
- Shop in the off-season. The start of the summer is probably the worst time to buy a new bathing suit, because stores know that everyone needs one before the hot weather hits. Prices will be much better in the early spring, when some stores have "pre-season sales," and at the end of summer, when the stores are trying to make room for fall clothes. This kind of shopping takes some planning, but it can really pay off!
If you resist buying things when they first come out, you can end up spending a lot less for the things you want.
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