When a Bargain Isn't a Bargain
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Ever fall for a sale that seemed too good to be true? While we all strive to save, not all advertised sales, deals and discounts are worth it. Not all will truly deliver the best value, quality or even price. Here are some cases when a bargain just isn't a bargain.
Some Bulk Purchases
While buying in bulk often costs less, it doesn't always save you money in the long run. Non-perishable goods and household products are less likely to go to waste when buying in bulk, making them worth their price. But, when it comes to certain food items that expire quickly — fruits, vegetables, meat, etc. — consider whether bulk purchases from warehouse clubs, such as Costco, BJ's and Sam's Club, actually meet your family's needs. Wasted food means wasted money.
Some End-Cap Items
At supermarkets and drug stores, products presented in the aisle end-caps are not always on sale, despite appearing that way. "End caps are typically used to blow out inventory," says Sue Perry, deputy editor at ShopSmart Magazine. "Products are not necessarily on sale, but they're displayed to look like you're getting a deal. The only way you're going to know is to head into the aisle and do some comparison-shopping. You might find a brand that's cheaper."
Deals Requiring "Multiple" Purchases
Another supermarket trick is to showcase certain items in a way where you assume you have to buy several of a particular item to earn a discount. These deals encourage customers to buy more than they may really need. If you see a sale that appears to be hinged on buying multiple products to get a discount — for example, 10 cans of soup for $10 — know that you may just be able to buy 1 for $1.
Dollar Store Finds
Experts say not everything's a steal at the dollar store, despite low prices. For example, some food products — like eggs and pantry items — while priced less, may come in slightly smaller sizes and packaging at the dollar store than at supermarkets. To make sure you're getting a good value, always compare products by calculating their cost per unit.
There are also some dollar store products that should best be avoided because they pose either health or safety risks. Researchers at ShopSmart recommend skipping vitamins due to some instances of improper labeling. Some over-the-counter medicines, like aspirin, were also found to be close to or past their expiration dates. Finally, watch out for some electrical products, such as extension cords, holiday lights and lamps. ShopSmart found some carrying fake UL labels, which vouch for their safety. Without proper certification, some electrical products may have undersized wiring or other components that make them fire hazards.
Daily deal websites, like Groupon and LivingSocial, entice consumers to make quick purchasing decisions. As a result, we sometimes forget to read the fine print. Whether you're interested in buying a trip to Bermuda or a $20 gift certificate worth $40 at your favorite restaurant, always learn about restrictions first. Some deals have expiration and block out dates, and in some cases, you need to be a first-time customer to cash in on the deal.
This article is part of a series related to being Financially Fit