Buying Power

Plugging into savvy consumer shopping habits can add up to substantial savings over the long run .

means we’re sending our kids out into the world without teaching them how to properly evaluate their purchases. Once you become a more savvy consumer, pass this information along to your children. According to Haithcox, “We should encourage our kids to make purchases based on their needs, which products offer the best quality within the constraints of their budget, as well as which companies invest in their communities.”

  • Use your research to assess your purchases. “Remember the results of your independent research. You should know which brands offer high quality and at what price,” advises Youman. “It’s important to have a lot of information. For example, if you’re purchasing a car, you should know how much the car should be selling for in the marketplace (see “Don’t Get Taken For a Ride,” Verve, June 1999). The same thing is true for a house. If you know what other houses in the neighborhood recently sold for, then you know if the seller is being reasonable.”
  • Shop off-season and get price quotes from at least three different retailers. “Shopping around [and purchasing at the right time] can save you huge amounts of money,” says Youman. For example, you’ll save on things like window air conditioners, fans, lawn furniture, grills, lawn mowers, pool equipment and camping gear in late August or early September. Winter
  • necessities, including Christmas decorations, can typically be had for 40% to 60% off from January through March. And when you’re shopping for bargains, focus on the final price, not the percent it’s discounted. Says Slater, “A lot of times stores raise their prices and then offer big discounts. But if you track the prices of the items you want to buy,
    you’ll know when they’re trying to pull the wool over your eyes.”
  • Avoid impulse purchases. The International Mass Retail Association reports that half of all sales are impulse purchases, but you should only purchase items that you’ve planned to buy. If you come across an item that you want, put it on next week’s list. Also, get a good night’s sleep before you make a decision about a big-ticket item, advises Hunt. She says, “You’ll probably change your mind in 24 hours. That’s why salesmen want you to act sooner rather than later.”
  • Don’t believe the hype. Go to an independent source to assess any information you’ve received from a company’s representative or advertisement. Remember, sale offerings are a marketing tactic to get you into the store. The store hopes that you’ll purchase additional items. Don’t let a good deal draw you into making an unplanned purchase-particularly if it has a hefty price. And if you find that a product you planned to purchase was misrepresented in an advertisement, or the retailer advertised a lower-priced item only to convince customers to buy a higher-priced one when they arrive (a scam called bait-and-switch), report the offender to your local Better Business Bureau.
  • Examine brand loyalty carefully. “African Americans are very brand loyal-almost to a fault,” comments Haithcox. What have the manufacturers of the products you
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