Sale Shopping 101: tips for getting the best deals

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If there is one thing that unites nearly all humans, it’s that we love getting a good deal. Being able to buy a much-needed item for a lower price will always raise a smile, and also offers practical benefits, such as freeing your budget for other necessities or purchases. 

Understanding this very human love of saving money, all retailers – both online and offline – regularly hold sales. In this piece, we’ve sought to provide advice on ensuring you can make the most of these sales, and score the best prices. Here’s what you need to know. 

#1 – Look for a good deal rather than a cheap deal 

Let’s say that you find a TV that is on sale, and the listed price is incredibly low. Great! You’ve found a bargain! But then you check the specs of the TV, and find that it is seriously lacking – there’s no 4K, no HDMI connections, in fact, it’s really quite basic and far from the best model on the market. 

The above scenario is an example of a cheap deal – the TV is very low in price, which is attractive, but it’s also hugely limited in terms of what it can offer to you as a user. It’s reasonable to expect that if that product wasn’t in the sale, it would still be fairly inexpensive due to its specifications. In contrast, a good deal would be a TV that delivers all the mod cons you might expect, that is in line with the latest technological advances, but that is available in the sale at a price that is below its recommended retail price. 

It’s relatively easy for lower-quality items to appear to be a steal during a sale, as their initial starting price was already far lower than other models. If you encounter such a scenario, then ask yourself if you would buy the TV at its normal price if you had the funds available to do so. If the answer is no, then its lower specifications are clearly not suitable for your needs; whereas a good deal meets your requirements and expectations, but at a preferable price point. 

#2 – Research brands before shopping a sale

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While less applicable to clothes and accessories (as it’s more difficult to “research” the quality of garments – you largely have to go on what you can see and, if buying in store, feel at the time of purchase), prior research is definitely worthwhile if you’re looking for electronic products such as a vacuum cleaner or kettle. Research gives you the opportunity to read about the different models available, read reviews, and – most importantly of all – get an idea of how the kind of items you want to buy are usually priced. 

When the sale arrives, your prior research allows you to be able to identify a genuinely good deal with relative ease. Rather than having to assume an item is a good deal because it has a discount attached, you’ll actually know – because you know what the item was previously priced at, and how that compares to the new sale price. As a result, you’ll be able to quickly make your purchase without having to research on-the-spot.

#3 – Focus on the big sale events

For many years, sales were rather infrequent, often only occurring a few times a year when stores needed to make room for new seasonal stock. Nowadays, things are very different: if you were to visit a handful of stores (and particularly ecommerce stores) right now, you’d likely find that at least half of them are running some kind of sale event. Simply put, sales are now year-round events for many stores. 

However, the traditional sales periods such as Black Friday and post-Christmas are often more conducive to finding the best prices, especially if you’re looking to buy branded products that are sold at multiple retailers. Cuts can often be deeper during the ‘big’ events, as retailers know that all of their competition are also cutting prices, so there can be more pressure to try and make sure that their deals stand out from the crowd.

#4 – Be cautious of “timing tactics” 

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You may have previously heard advice that has told you to always try and shop a sale at a specific time. There are two main schools of thought in this regard: you shop at the start of a sale (because it’s more likely that items will be available, whereas at the end of the sale all the good deals will be gone) or you should shop at the end of a sale (because there’s a chance that the retailer will have further reduced the price of items, so you can benefit from an even lower price). However, both of the above “timing tactics” have their issues: if you shop early then you might miss out on future price cuts, but if you leave it too late, the item that you want to buy may sell out. 

So how can you time your sales shopping? Realistically, you can’t. There’s no “perfect” time – there are significant pros and cons to both shopping early, and shopping late. Instead, it’s usually preferable to just focus on a sale as you encounter it, asking if you want to buy that item and if it is a good deal at the current price. If it is, and the purchases make sense for you financially, then buy it – don’t wait and hope that the price will drop. On the flip side, if you see an advert for a “last chance!” or “further reduced!” sale, don’t assume that all of the best items will already have sold – it’s still worth taking a look, just in case. 

#5 – Don’t forget to check the manufacturer’s website

When seeking sales bargains, most of us will turn to the stores we usually buy from and hope to find that an item we want to buy has been reduced. It’s natural to go to the stores that we are familiar with, after all. However, if you have your eye on a particular brand, then it’s also worth checking the website of the manufacturer of the product as well. 

While not true of all manufacturers, many do sell items directly through their own site in addition to selling via retailers – and those websites will also host sales, and the deals they offer can be impressive. So if you’re looking for Black Friday vacuum cleaner deals or are hoping to snap up a new TV in the after-Christmas rush, make sure that you check individual manufacturers’ sites as well as general stores that sell a range of different brands. 

#7 – Be prepared to be patient 

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If an online store is offering a particularly good sale, you can be sure that the news of that sale will spread around the internet like wildfire, picked up by deal-hunting social media accounts and websites. This publicity is good for the site, but for your user experience, it can be a nightmare – many ecommerce stores experience serious speed issues as hundreds if not thousands of customers visit at the same time, hoping to secure a deal. You’ll therefore need to be very patient when sales shopping online, and it may also be helpful to set a store’s page to auto-refresh so you don’t have to literally sit in front of your computer waiting for it to get on. 

Patience is also required for offline sales, as almost everything about the shopping experience – from finding a parking space to queuing at the register – will usually take longer than it normally would due to bigger crowds. It’s therefore best to only visit offline sales if you know you have got a little extra time to spare if needed; otherwise, you could end up rushing a decision to purchase, or having to head for another appointment or engagement before you’ve had the chance to actually buy anything. 

#8 – Try haggling 

Haggling tends to make people feel uncomfortable, but the savings can be significant if you’re willing to give it a try – and especially if the item is already discounted. Haggling is best seen as a “worth giving it a go!” idea; if it does work out, then no worries; you’re still going to be able to buy the item if you want to, so there’s nothing lost. If it does, then you’ve turned a good deal into a great deal. 

If you have never haggled before, then just try to keep things as simple as possible. Simply ask an employee (or a live chat agent if shopping online) if this is the best deal available on that specific item. You can also add that you’d be more interested in buying if there was a further discount, but it’s not essential – just asking if it’s the best price is usually sufficient. If they say no, just thank them for their time and either buy at the advertised sale price, or go elsewhere. 

The tips above should help to make your future sales shopping as effective as possible. Good luck! 

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