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Think twice before snapping up that "bargain"

By Staff
Michelle Blaylock, Mom's Corner
Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving, the time to reflect on our blessings. Do you know for retailers it's a time of "thanksgiving" as well? Well, actually, it's the day after Thanksgiving, better known now as "Black Friday." The reason it's called "Black Friday" is because it's the day retailers gamble on taking their accounts from the red into the black.
You see they plan on consumers to be in a buying frenzy. The sad thing is most of the time consumers are. I think for most people it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of Christmas shopping, after Thanksgiving Day sales, and the general hustle and bustle of the season, which leads to the problem of over-spending.
I admit I love the hustle and bustle. I love the excitement. Hubby, however, isn't quite as thrilled when he balances the checkbook. So in order to keep Hubby happy and preserve the peace in our family, I had to come up with a plan.
First, I decide how much I'm going to spend, end of discussion. If I think the sales will be too tempting, I take cash. When the cash runs out, I'm done. Now there are some risks with using cash–the biggest being having it stolen. If you're going to do this I recommend using something like a fanny pack that you won't be tempted to set down even for a second. Someone can easily see you using cash and discreetly follow you, waiting for their chance to grab your purse or wallet.
Second, I try to have a list or a general idea of what I want to buy. Most stores put out sales fliers, which can help you plan purchases. I also try to have a general idea how much something cost normally. Stores love to use the 99 or 98 trick and many people fall for it. For example, the regular price might be $30 and the "big" sale price is $25.99. In reality you're only saving $4. Granted it's still a savings, but it's not a huge savings. It's not even 30 percent off.
On that note, unless you're just a whiz at math, I suggest you take a calculator or have a cell phone with a calculator function. Take the time to be sure when they say 60 percent off that it really is. Also, don't trust the store computer. There are times that the sale price of an item didn't get entered correctly into the system or just wasn't entered at all. Watch the register to see you get the correct discount. As a note, remember it's not the cashier's fault, he or she usually isn't responsible for the price changes, so be patient.
If I'm planning a large purchase, I make it a habit to shop around before I purchase it. At the very least, I call around and check prices. I usually have the prices of things I'm planning to purchase written in a small notebook that I carry with me.
I note which stores the item was advertised and how much it was. If the store with the best price is sold out and not giving rain checks, then I can go to the store with the next best price. Occasionally, if you speak with the manager, he or she will give it to you at the best price you found, providing you have the sale flier to prove it. I have also found internet sites that do price comparisons for you.
I've noticed that stores will frequently tell you what the manufacture's recommend price is, but they don't mention their regular price. Their regular price may be the same or within just a few dollars of their sale price. Unless it's something I just have to have, I usually wait for my idea of a really great sale, not just the store's idea.
I also plan not to take children with me. Children are a distraction when I'm shopping. It's harder for me to keep a running total. I find myself just wanting to get out of the store. I only take my kids if I think they will have to try something on or they need to shop themselves for a present for someone.
Speaking of trying things on, most stores have return policies.
If I am limited on time, I will forgo the dressing room nightmare and try the clothes on at home, assuming I can return them if they don't fit (always ask before you buy). I typically put all my receipts in the same pocket of my wallet that makes returning items much easier.
One year after Christmas, my mom heard of a clothing store near her who was going out of business with all sales final. They were having some terrific bargains, so we loaded up the kids (at the time there were five, ages three, five, seven, nine and 12 years old) and headed to the store.
Let's just say we did get some great clothes at great prices, but I think my mom and I aged about 15 years in about two hours. It was a zoo. In fact, my mom ended up going home and taking a nap! Now I think I would do it in shifts and just take two or three kids at a time.
My final strategy is to walk away. If I'm just not sure if I like it or if it's a good price, then I just walk away. I feel it's better to save the money and risk losing something I MIGHT like that MIGHT be a good deal. There aren't that many once in a lifetime deals, so to me it's worth it to be really sure.
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. If you have a question or comment for Mom's Corner, please send it to: Mom's Corner; P.O. Box 1496; Hartselle, AL 35640 or e-mail: