If you must shop, here are 12 timeless tips. For examples, we’ll use gadgets rather than items like clothing.
1. Know What You WantIf you’re prone to saying “I’ll know it when I see it”, you risk spending lots of time shopping. You also risk overspending. Think about what you want first. You can still browse, but now you have a Plan A. If you like wandering around, you could go for a walk.
2. Watch Price TrendsIf you don’t have a sense for the normal prices, you can’t tell if you’re really getting a deal. Sales may be based on prices that few would pay.
Items may be cheaper when major sales aren’t taking place. Over the years, I’ve noticed (and this is unscientific) that highend computers tend to be cheaper in late November and early December than just after Christmas. There are sales every week, but the deals vary.
You might notice patterns too. If you’re patient, you can win.
3. EXAMINE The OffersThe screenshot shows a Black Friday deal from Dell. On the surface, the deal looks good: a $90 hard drive for $50. I was tempted but looked closer. Does Dell even make hard drives? My Dell computer has disk drives from WD and Samsung. Since no one else sells Dell hard drives, they can set any price they want. The $90 is a “market price”, which is a fictitious. Even so, the offer looks good. However, the product page doesn’t show the warranty.
Instead, you’re told “For copy of Ltd Hardware Warranty, write to Dell USA LP, Attn: Warranties, One Dell Way, Round Rock, TX 78682 or see www.dell.com/warranty.”
If you click through, you’re told something 100% useless: “Dell-branded hardware products purchased in the U.S. or Canada may come with a 90-day, 1-year, 2-year, 3-year, 4-year or 5-year, or other limited hardware warranty.”
In contrast, Costco sells a WD My Passport Ultra hard drive with a three year warranty and carrying case for $90 (1 TB) or $129 (2 TB). Maybe that’s a better deal for peace of mind?
Comparing features and specifications isn’t enough either. What matches or wins on paper may not be a good choice. For instance, the tablet may have short battery life or an unresponsive touch screen.
Flexibility makes shopping easier. There will likely be something on sale when you’re ready to buy.
7. Wait After BuyingYou might buy on impulse. That’s fine. We’re human. You don’t have to open the product immediately.
Wait a day or more. Do you still feel compelled to keep it? If not, return your purchase. This happens to us at Costco where the products keep changing and the return policies are fair.
Suppose you bought the hard drive from Dell and decided you didn’t like it. You can return it without cost or penalty.
9. GET QualityIf you’re comfortable buying fewer items, you’ll have less clutter. The environment will thank you too. Quality costs more but what you get is often more enjoyable. I’m still using my iPad 1, which is still working fine.
10. Latest or Greatest?Is last year’s model that bad? Everything becomes old. You might save more by getting last year’s proven model. With gadgets, it’s tempting to get the latest because newer is often better. That’s not true for products like toaster ovens where the changes may be cosmetic.
Another option is to get a refurbished model with a full manufacturer’s warranty.
12. Ignore THe HypeWe live in the world of buyer beware. We also live in a world where we don’t have to buy. Our basic needs are limited.
As George Carlin said, “If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time … your house is a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get … more stuff! Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.”
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PS Just because you have money to spend doesn’t mean you have to spend the money.