Money tip: Strategies for paying less
Many tricks, tactics and strategies can lead to paying lower prices in the store or reaping better value from the money you spend. Here are some examples.
Retailers spend a lot of time, money and effort to entice you to buy merchandise in their stores.
And salespeople are skilled at persuading undecided shoppers to open their wallets, even when they hadn’t intended to.
That’s part of a capitalist system and should be expected by any savvy shopper.
But it doesn’t mean consumers are powerless once they cross the retail-store threshold.
Many tricks, tactics and strategies can lead to paying lower prices in the store or reaping better value from the money you spend.
Here are some examples:
Decipher price tags. Sometimes retailers use secret price codes. A glance at a price tag will tell you whether an item is truly on sale or clearance.
For example, Costco Wholesale prices ending in .97 instead of .99 indicates a markdown, says personal-finance guru Clark Howard, whose new book is “Clark Howard’s Living Large for the Long Haul.”
At Target, prices ending in 9 are at full retail price, while prices ending in 8 or 6 are discounted, but might be cut again. Those ending in 4 are the lowest they will get.
At Sam’s Club, a “C” means it’s on clearance, and prices ending in the digit 1 signal the item is marked down below cost, Howard said. Similar systems are in effect for Home Depot, Gap, Old Navy, Sears and Office Depot, according to Lifehacker.com. As a general rule, a price ending in something other than 9 is a good sign.
Beware the accessory up-sell. Smart shoppers research big-ticket purchases, such as a cellphone or television, but they can be tripped up by unexpected pitches for add-ons. Among the priciest are accessories.
For example, computer printers usually don’t come with a cable to attach to a computer. A friendly salesperson can remind you of this and sell you a $25 printer cord. Instead, stop at a dollar store on the way home and pick up a perfectly usable cord for a buck.
Similarly, today’s televisions are best used with an HDMI cord to hook to the cable or satellite box. Cables can cost $20 to $100 in-store. Skip that and go online to Monoprice.com or Amazon.com to find HDMI cables for about $5.
Videophiles say there is no difference in picture and audio quality. With cellphones, the aftermarket cases and chargers will usually be far cheaper somewhere other than the electronics or wireless-phone store. And when buying a new car, beware of the F&I, or finance and insurance, room. That’s where they up-sell you on such items as fabric and paint protection and extended warranties.
Warranties warranted? Extended warranties, more properly called service contracts, are another hard-sell up-sell, especially on electronics and appliances.
Personal-finance experts and consumer advocates generally are not fans of buying them. They’re almost pure profit for retailers.
Many purchases are covered by the manufacturer for a period of time. And if you made the purchase on a credit card, the card may extend that warranty.
For autos, service contracts are “a losing bet,” said Consumer Reports.
Because vehicles are so reliable nowadays, “the chance of needing extended warranty coverage just isn’t as great as it used to be,” it said.
If you really want a service contract, be clear on what it covers.
Haggle. Part of talking to salespeople is to simply ask for a price break. Be nice and maintain your walkaway leverage.
“When you ask for a discount, ask confidently like there is no reason in the world why your wish should not be granted,” said author and shopping expert Mark Di Vincenzo.
You have more negotiating power if you’re considering several purchases or can find flawed items or floor models for sale. Use phrases such as, “Is there any wiggle room in that price?” and “Gee, that’s more than I wanted to spend.”
If you can’t bargain down the price, ask for free throw-ins, such as home delivery of an appliance, clothing alterations and no-interest financing.