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Shopping Tips

Who doesn’t want to get the best deal for their money There’s no shortage of sale ads from merchants who want your business: they’re using preferred customer specials, early bird sales, midnight madness events, coupon savings days, and pre- AND post-holiday sales. Just how do you decide if their deals are real? Here are some tips to help you get the most for your money.

Shop around

A “sale” price isn’t always the “best” price. Some merchants may offer a sale price on an item for a limited time; others may discount the price on the same item everyday. Having an item’s manufacturer, model number, and other identifying information can help you get the best price for the item you want.

Read sale ads carefully

Some may say “quantities limited” or “not available at all stores.” Before you step out the door, call ahead to make sure the merchant has the item in stock. If you’re shopping for a popular or hard-to-find item, ask the merchant if he’d be willing to hold the item until you can get to the store.

Take time and travel costs into consideration

If an item is on sale, but it’s way across town, how much are you really saving once you factor in your time, your transportation and parking?

Look for price-matching policies

Some merchants will match, or even beat, a competitor’s prices — at least for a limited time. Read the merchant’s pricing policy. It may not apply to all items.

Check prices online

Check out websites that compare prices for items offered online. Some sites also may compare prices offered at stores in your area. If you decide to buy online, keep shipping costs and delivery time in mind.

Calculate bargain offers that are based on purchases of additional merchandise

For example “buy one, get one free”, “free gift with purchase” or “free shipping with minimum purchase” may sound enticing. If you don’t really want or need the item, it’s not a deal.

Ask about sale adjustments

If you buy an item at regular price and it goes on sale the next week, can you get a credit or refund for the discounted amount? What documentation will you need?

Check out the terms of the deal, like refund policies and delivery dates

Can you return the item for a full refund if you’re not satisfied? If you return it, who pays the shipping costs or restocking fees and when you will get your order? Many sites offer tracking options, so you can see exactly where your purchase is and estimate when you’ll get it.

Keep Records

Print or save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt and the emails you send and receive from the seller. Read your credit card statements as you receive them; be on the lookout for charges that you don’t recognize.

Don’t email any financial information

Email is not a secure method of transmitting financial information like your credit card or checking account. If you begin a transaction and need to give your financial information through an organization’s website, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a URL that begins https (the “s” stands for secure). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some fraudulent sites have forged security icons.