Monday, May 30, 2011

How to decipher whether it's really a deal

When perusing any of the popular “deal” websites or eyeing the product being sold as two for one, trying to decide whether or not to pull the trigger, ask yourself three questions:

1.     Were you already thinking about buying it?
If you have been meaning to replace your circa-1980 coffeepot, maybe that snazzy new one on sale for half price makes sense. If, however, you stumble upon something you had no intention of buying, you’re spending money that you otherwise wouldn’t have and most likely consuming more than you really want or need. So even if you get a $400 pair of shoes for $80, that’s $80 you would’ve otherwise retained, for a pair of shoes you were otherwise unaware of.

2.     Would you have paid full price for it?
We all get caught up in the “budget” mindset. “It’s not amazing," we tell ourselves, "but it’s only $10. I’d be stupid not to buy it at that price.” If it doesn’t fit you or doesn’t fit the need well enough that you’d pay full price for it, you’ll wind up filling your home with stuff that's just “okay” – a closet full of mediocre clothes and a couch that’s “good enough” – rather than holding out for a few things you love (and perhaps waiting for those few things to go on sale.) While some purchases make sense – you’ll likely go through several couches in your life as your earning capacity increases and, until you can have the great couch, you still need a place to sit that doesn’t cost three grand. Other things, though – like a cashmere sweater – are worth discernment. Don’t buy three “so-so” sweaters off the sales rack; you can land yourself a fantastic one when it’s finally marked down.

3.     Is there a real reason it’s on sale?
Sometimes things are on sale because, quite simply, they didn’t sell. And usually they didn’t sell because something is wrong with them. If you find the same shirt in every size on the sale rack, skip it. If it seems too good to be true, chances are it is.

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