Secrets of a Bargain Hunter

31 01 2008

I love a good deal, in fact I love a good deal so much that I have bought just about everyone I have come across.  Hard Drives, RAM, flash drives, shoes, sports equipment, you name it, if it’s a deal, I buy it.  In college, I bought deals to the tune of about $5,000 in credit card debt by the time I graduated, after all who can refuse a 400 gig Hard Drive for $100 (2 years ago)?  Did I need these things?  No.  In fact I ended up giving some of it to friends when I moved cross-country.  Is buying something because it’s a deal stupid?  Yes, but by running up my credit card bill I learned a great deal about deals.

  • The internet is a bargain hunter’s best friend.  There are literally hundreds of deal websites out there.  My two favorite forums are fatwallet and slickdeals , these websites contain tons of great deals on everything from shoes to plasma TV’s.  They also contain tricks and tips for getting deals and negotiating on larger purchases.  I got Mary hooked, and now she does research on these sites before she makes purchases.  Also check out Dealcoupon for up to date coupon codes.

  • A sale is not necessarily a deal.  Trust me, I work for a retail corporation.  Just because something is marked as a sale, or is on “clearance” does not mean it’s a good deal, it’s marketing.  Ever notice how certain department stores have the “biggest sale of the year” every Saturday?  Sure, sometimes things on clearance are a great deal, especially in the back corners of Home Depot or Lowes, but some of the time you can find a better deal by going online and researching.

  •  Coupons Coupons Coupons!  So you’ve researched online and you weren’t able to find a better deal, but you were able to find a website that has it for the same price.  I’d be willing to bet that there is a coupon that will save you at least 10%, whether it be a free shipping coupon (combined with no tax online it’s a huge bonus), x% off, or a free gift with purchase (Office Depot is notorious for these), you can find a way to make a deal work in your advantage.

  • Price Matching.  Did you know that many stores have best price guarantees?  For instance, Best Buy, Circuit City, Sears, Home Depot, Lowes, Staples, and a great deal of other stores will price match to another store.  Some of these stores even promise to beat their competitors prices by 10% of the difference in price (not 10% less than their competitor).  Say that Home Depot is having a sale on a refrigerator for $999 and Sears sells the same model for $1199.  In this case, Sears would give you the better deal even though it’s not on sale:

Sears Price:                  $1199

Home Depot Price:       $999

Difference:                     $200

Sears Pricematch:         $999

10% of Difference:          $20

New Sears Price:           $979

That may be the easiest $20 you ever made, just make sure you have a clear understanding of the price match policy and the store associates should help you out with no issues.  But that’s not all; because you are now buying at Sears and not Home Depot, they may be having a 10% cash rebate (as they do now).  So if you go this route, you end up saving another $98.  Allowing you to save $118 total, for maybe 20-30 minutes of work.                       

*Warning, many stores will also offer additional discounts if you pay with their store card, this can be a great tool, but it can also be a dangerous game for people who have trouble controlling their spending habits.  Please be responsible, and if you are in over your head with debt, a discount from a retailer for using a credit card will most likely cost you more in interest than you will save in your discount.

  • Check Store Credibility.  Many deals you will find online seem too good to be true.  If you find a great deal on a website you have never heard of, it would be best to check out the stores credibility before you hand over all of your personal information.  The best resource I know of for this is Reseller Ratings.  This site is filled with tons of valuable information and has a section dedicated to giving online store ratings.  So you can type in the store name and read up on them.  If they are not on this website, chances are they are not an honest retailer.

  • Stack ‘em up! What happens when you combine a price match with a coupon (or several)?  I can only describe it as finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.  It can work, but it really depends on their price matching policy, the fine print on the coupon, and the competence of the salesman.  Most coupons and price match policy’s say that they can’t be combined with other offers, but occasionally it can be done (it never hurts to ask!).

  • Bundle.  From my experience, this mainly works at big box electronics stores.  Most managers at Best Buy or Circuit City are thrilled to throw together a bundle of big ticket items at a discount for you, especially if you buy one of their coveted service plans that they want you to buy.  Margins are slim on big ticket items like TV’s, but they can discount stereos, cables,* and installation services because the markup is much more, therefore to help seal the deal, many times they will personalize a bundle for you.  My brother bought a 55” DLP, Receiver, Speakers, and Cables, and saved over $500 on all of it.  It is best to avoid peak times when attempting this.  (NOTE: I never recommend buying the cables from the stores.  You can purchase the same quality online for a fraction of the price at Monoprice.)

  • Be nice to the person.  They are just trying to earn a buck, and many times they are still in high school.  The best way to get a deal is to treat the sales person with respect, call them by their name, and don’t be pushy.  Most of all, if you are trying to stack, and it clearly states that the coupons aren’t valid with other offers, don’t push it.

  • Be Ethical.  There are many ways to try and get deals from stores, some of which are ethical (what I posted), and some of which are not.  Please be ethical, don’t lie to try and save yourself a few bucks.  Karma is very real.

Now that you know some of the tricks, it’s important to determine what defines a “deal.”  For me, deal is getting a better price than what the seller is asking, or getting additional things thrown in.  When Mary bought a swimsuit online recently, she searched a found 2 other coupon codes that she could use.  She got free shipping, and she got a free bathrobe and slippers, that we in turn gave as a Christmas present.  Plus because she bought online she did not have to pay tax (this varies by store).