We have more ways to shop at our disposal than ever. You might opt to shop online, or you can head, instead, to a local brick-and-mortar store so you can see and touch what you want to buy before you commit.
Or you can do both.I know a lot of people who go to a local store and then spend the entire time on their smartphone looking up the price at online retailers. That’s a little rude, but it’s an option.
Knowing what to buy and where to buy it isn’t the hard part, though. It’s knowing when to buy.
And how do we know when to pull the trigger on making a purchase?
Set price alerts
For products like cars and furniture, there’s usually price fluctuations throughout the year, but what does that mean for the typical consumer?
For some items, you can set price alerts and get an email or text notification when there’s a price drop. That’s especially good for travel-related purchases like plane tickets and hotel rooms.
Let’s say you’re looking for tickets for a trip to Orlando in April. Springtime in Florida means things can get expensive, so you really want to make sure you’re getting the best price possible on your flight and hotel room. Kayak, Google Flights, and other travel sites will let you know when the getting is good, and they will even give you charts that show the price trends for flights from Orlando in April over the last few weeks.
But purchasing travel is different from purchasing a lot of consumer products. Most people looking to buy something like a smartphone or instant pot want to buy the item relatively soon.
They don’t want to buy tickets to purchase the item in April. But there are online search engines that can provide you with the price history of various products even as they show you the best current deals. It’s up to you to decide if buying a product now at $70 is a better idea than waiting for it to drop back down to $60 or even $50.
A little skepticism goes a long way when it comes to purchasing material goods. For instance, Black Friday and Cyber Monday get a lot of press as the absolute best time of the year to buy anything.
Research shows that’s not always the case, though, and that retailers will often slash prices further as Christmas gets closer. Some people like to line up at 4 a.m. on Black Friday because they find it fun, and that’s their right, but you should know that pushing through a mob to get a flat-screen TV isn’t going to always lead to the best price.
In fact, there’s also a good chance the store will run out of those TVs before you even get there. The best deals often exist in severely limited quantities. If there are five flat-screen TVs in the score, and 100 people looking to buy one, then that means 95 people are going to walk away disappointed.
Don’t be afraid to simply talk to store employees and ask when they usually have the best deals, too. In many cases, it’s not some state secret. Say for instance you’re looking for a deal on lobster; just call some grocery stores and ask when they typically put seafood on sale. There’s something to be said for not making things more complicated than they have to be.
Cover image: Rms.nsw.gov.au.