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When is a Bargain Not a Bargain?

When is a Bargain Not a Bargain?

Q: I’m a bargain-hunting beast, and I can’t resist a good sale. But, I’ve been wondering: When is a bargain not a bargain?


A: You’re absolutely right. Not every bargain is actually a bargain. Unfortunately, though, it can be hard to spot the bogus bargains from genuine finds. Here are five times when a bargain is not one.


  1. When you hadn’t planned on buying the item


If you find a new home speaker system marked down from $399 to $249, you just scored a great deal, right?


Wrong. If you were not shopping for a new stereo, and hadn’t planned on buying one in the future, you haven’t saved $140, you’ve wasted $249.


Before you buy, ask: Would you buy this if it was not on sale?


  1. When you can’t afford it


If you can’t pay for this item with cash today, it’s likely not a bargain. Blowing money you don’t have just because it’s on sale is a great way to break your budget and weaken your financial health. In general, don’t buy it if you can’t pay for it today. One exception is when a sale hits on something you’ve been saving for and have most of the cost already saved. Just be sure to pay that savings toward your card as soon as you can.


Before you buy, ask: Can I really afford this?


  1. When it’s a faulty product


Sometimes, what’s too good to be true truly isn’t. If a price is glaringly lower than its market price, and you can’t find it marked down nearly as much through any other retailer, there may be something sketchy about this sale. You may be looking at a knockoff that will look and perform like the cheaply made bogus product it is, or you may be buying someone else’s heavily used item that’s being sold as a new product. 


Before you buy, ask: Is this a quality product or worthless junk?


  1. If there’s a cheaper alternative


Don’t assume every bargain you encounter is truly being sold at its lowest available price you can find for this item. Before plunking down your money on a large, marked-down purchase, do some research. Look up this item online to see if it’s being sold through other retailers at a lower price. Depending on the item, you may also find a quality generic version that does the job well for a fraction of the price.


Before you buy, ask: Can I find this at a cheaper price somewhere else?


  1. If it’s not really a bargain


Not every sale is actually a sale. Retailers will often inflate the “original price” they print on a price tag to make it appear as if the current price is a genuine bargain. To spot an actual marked-down product, look for an older price tag that has been topped by a newer tag sporting the sale price. 


Before you buy, ask: Is this actually a bargain?


Use this guide to shop the sales and walk away with true bargains.

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