4 Steps to a Guaranteed Smart Buy

by Lee Doppelt

Ways to Guarantee a Smart Buy photo

Want to make sure you always shop smart? Guarantee a smart buy by taking these four steps whenever you shop for just about anything and you won’t needlessly waste money.

Whether you are looking to purchase a new vehicle, a dry basement system, a washing machine, an upgraded laptop, or a pair of high-quality women’s walking shoes, you need to learn some of the basics of being a savvy consumer.

People who sell products and services, whether they are paid on commission or salaried, typically look out for their best interest first, not yours. But there are several ways to train yourself to avoid unwise spending and develop your skill at sales resistance.

Take these steps to do your research before you speak face-to-face with a salesperson.

1. Consider what you want to purchase.

For example, maybe it’s time to upgrade your phone to have more room for more apps. You look online and in the stores at the newer models.

Your online review reveals some of the options, and you can get an idea of what certain items cost, including accessories and maintenance. Find out if you can expect any hidden costs and expenses. Read customer reviews carefully, especially the ones with the lower ratings, to learn why customers did not like the product that you are considering purchasing.

2. Think about the time frame for your purchase.

Is there urgency for buying this item? Perhaps your car is spending more time in your auto mechanic’s garage than in your garage at home. Should you keep your car through the winter, or would it be smarter to replace it now to have a more dependable vehicle during potentially rough weather?

If you are planning to purchase something expensive, such as new kitchen cabinets, you may need financing. Start shopping around for the best interest rates. Many home improvement companies offer financing options, but another lender may have a better interest rate.

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3. Shop around before making any calls.

If you are about to spend major amounts of money on something substantial, such as remodeling the bathroom, always get at least three estimates. Friends and neighbors might be able to suggest companies that are great to work with as well as those that are best to avoid. And, you can look online at the websites of these companies, but also at outside ratings like on Angi (formerly Angie’s List).

Before you get your first estimate, formulate a list of questions about the product or service, such as whether the work will be done by the company’s employees or by outside independent contractors. Ask about warranties on labor and materials. Find out how long the work will take, how early in the morning they start the job, and how soon they can start.

After you have had your first estimate, you will already have become more knowledgeable about your anticipated purchase and can add more questions to your list before you get your second and third estimates. And remember to ask about any special promotions or discounts, such as a senior discount.

4. Put your sales resistance into high gear.

Never let yourself succumb to impulse buying. Try to avoid buying something when you are in a desperate situation. Sometimes, you can’t help it; for example, you may not discover that your sump pump no longer works until it rains heavily and you discover a few inches of water on the basement floor. But, frankly, most of the time, you are in a situation where you can be proactive and have the time to anticipate and plan a purchase, especially a large and expensive one.

No matter how pushy your salesperson appears to be, always be polite but firm. You know how badly you need the item. You know the time frame you need it in. And you have already calculated how much money you are willing to spend for it and if it is something you are willing to finance.

Many salespeople will be “armed” with a contract just ready for you to sign. Never do it. Their fabulous deal that is only good “if you sign today” will truly be just as enticing if you give yourself a day or two, or longer, to make a rational rather than emotional decision about the purchase.

No matter how badly you want a new purchase, big or small, always be deliberate in your research and commitment before signing any contract. You’ll be much happier with the results if you do.

Reviewed January 2024

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