What is Bargain Hunting to You?

I write about savings on this blog because saving money is very important to my wife and me. I enjoy the challenges of bargain hunting and knowing and feeling that I got a very good deal, if not the best deal available. But I also know that not everyone views a bargain in terms of dollars and cents.

Remember this rule of thumb above all else:

“A bargain isn’t a bargain if you don’t need it and won’t use it!”

I’m sure if you check in your closets you will find some things you have purchased because it was such a deal, but has never, ever been used. These purchases will probably wind up as a bargain to someone else at your next yard sale.

Bargain hunting means different things to different people. Which do you value most...your time or your money? And how does that affect the way you shop?
Your satisfaction with a bargain may depend on what kind of shopper you are. Over my years in retail, I have found that people can be divided into a couple different types of shoppers.

The “Negotiators”

I have found that with the mixing of so many immigrants here in the USA, bargain hunting is very much a cultural tradition. Believe me that many times in my days as a retail store manager I was asked by customers if items on our “bargain displays” could be negotiated further than the ticketed prices simply because where they were originally from, that was the way a bargain was negotiated. The concept of a temporary price reduction was literally foreign to them. Negotiating prices is definitely a real option, but you’ll find more success negotiating on home prices, auto prices, cable television/internet costs, and insurance premiums than at a department store.

The “Time to Save” Shopper

There are many shoppers who value their time more than any other factor when shopping. They are not the type who will spend time clipping coupons or physically shopping around from store to store to comparison shop. They might check out prices online and use that skill to seek out bargains. But they are much more likely to be brand loyalists who are actually more satisfied to pay a higher price for something they perceive to have more value because of the name, recognition factor, and reputation.

I used to think that the old phrase “you get what you pay for” was never really true. But over time I’ve come to realize that sometimes you need to invest in quality (whether or not that’s attached to well-known brand name) to get the best deal in the long term.

The “Bargain Seekers”

Then there are the die-hard bargain hunters. They’re the ones who have been trained or conditioned to seek out the deals. Either for fun, the challenge, or out of necessity, they are attracted to low prices and are avid readers of daily and weekly advertising, in print, radio and TV as well as the online deluge of information. They will shop around, cherry pick their purchases, and research whatever they need to know to get a bargain and fulfill that need to succeed. To be honest, most Americans have been trained by the retailers, not only to hunt for deals, but also to know and expect bargains and special prices at certain times of the year.

The best examples of this are things like the January and July “white sales” for things like sheets and blankets. In the market for a winter coat? Well then shop the Columbus Day promotions. Buying a swimsuit? You’ll never beat the summer swimwear sales for price. The list goes on and on for the die-hards.

Know Your Prices

An important factor for any shopper is familiarity with prices. When it comes to things we purchase frequently, we tend to know the difference between bargains and “not so much”. Necessity sometimes overrides the price factor, like if you need to fix a leak and you must buy the tools and supplies right now to handle it. Most things, however, are not under the gun of time. We see those percentages off, savings banners, sale signs, special value, closeout items and we know they’re something to look at when we shop. It’s definitely a conditioned response brought about by your friendly neighborhood merchants.

I can recall customers who would ask me why something we were selling in our store was 40% off, and our competitor was selling the same item in an ad at 50% off. Believe it or not, I had to explain that a percentage off isn’t what’s important, but rather the price you’ll be paying for the item is. Our price was lower when the percentage off prices were compared, but the customer would only notice the percentages. The regular prices were quoted differently and yes, the retailers can place any “regular price” they want to on an item. That’s called capitalism and you must know what the item is worth to you. Otherwise simple move on to another offer.

The more difficult challenges for consumers are for the items they don’t buy very often, but rather over a period of years like furniture, mattresses, and appliances. Because of higher price points, it really is imperative to do the homework to get that bargain no matter what kind of shopper you may be on all the other days you shop.

I recently went shopping for a new dishwasher and found a great price on sale at a major appliance store chain. Their competitor had it at a slightly higher price but offered free delivery and installation. I brought in the competitor’s advertisement and asked them to match the free installation, despite their signs which said free delivery but a $99 installation fee. I had to go to the store manager, but to save the sale, they did it and I proudly saved the $99 while still getting the better price.

Final Thoughts

Doing your research is smart advice and bargain hunter isn’t a four-letter word. It’s something we all can accomplish. Don’t ever think of the process as too much trouble of being petty. Smart is a word I like being called and I’m sure you do, too.

What ways do you hunt for bargains and of what purchases are you most proud?

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