Tips to Save on Big Ticket Items

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I spend so much time trying to save a little bit of money here and there and trying to buy as little as possible, and then there are big purchases that come up, whether it’s a computer or TV, a dining room table or bedroom furniture, making me feel like I am undoing all my good work.  These expenses are a normal part of life and as long as we make sure that they are needs and not wants, then we still have the spirit of saving.  The high price tag on these items make them prime candidates for saving money.  A small discount percentage will add up to a lot of money.

Below are the steps I usually take when faced with a large purchase.  Keep in mind that not all the steps will make sense for certain purchases. The more you can use, the more money you will be saving!

Try to find it free

Of course, the best way to save money is not to spend it!  See if there is a way to get the item you are interested in for free (or very cheap).  Certain items are known to be things that people buy, but often don’t use for long.  They will then often look to give it away because it is taking up too much space.  Let friends, coworkers and family know what you are looking for, you would be surprised what you may find.  You may find someone who is moving and looking to get rid of things. Or someone who just bought something new and wants to get rid of their older stuff.  I’ve had people tell me they are trying to give away beds, kitchen tables and even televisions.  When getting something free, you can’t be too picky, but you can usually customize it with a cheap DIY to get it just the way you’d want, like staining or painting furniture if its not the right color.

Consider buying used

The next best thing to free is highly discounted.  Depending on the item you are looking to buy, consider looking at sites like Kijiji or Craigslist or garage sales and second hand stores.  One person’s clutter is an other person’s treasure!

For some items it really doesn’t make a difference to buy second hand.  Things like video games, sewing machines, air conditioning units, bed frames and other pieces of furniture, are all great candidates for second hand purchases.  Furniture may need to be sanded and stained, but often it will be better quality furniture (e.g. real wood) than the cheap alternatives from Ikea or similar stores.

An other advantage of buying second hand from an individual is that you do not have to pay any taxes.  Buying something that is unused for the same price as the store is still beneficial.

If you do buy through a site like Kijiji or Craigslist, always verify the condition of the item you are buying.  Don’t be afraid of turning it on or inspecting the item before paying.  Also always make sure to meet in a public place or go with someone when you meet the seller to see the item.

Shop around for the best price

So you didn’t manage to get your item free nor discounted by buying used.  You now have to buy new.  You’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best price possible.  The best way is to shop around for sales.  The easiest way to compare prices is to start online.  Look on the websites for all local stores you would think of going to to buy the item.  You can also try online-only stores or sites such as amazon or ebay.  For computers, I would strongly suggest looking at newegg.ca, which has a large variety of electronics for very reasonable prices.  For appliances, I usually check Sears or Best Buy, but there are other stores that may have a good sale such as Home Depot.

If you find the best price online, you will need to factor in shipping fees into the total price. When buying expensive items online, there is often free shipping included, but not always within Canada. Also, when purchasing appliances, you may want to have it installed when it is delivered, so see what the store offers.  You can often negotiate free delivery and installation when making big purchases in person.

Use price matching

If the item you plan to buy is available at multiple stores, check to see if there are any stores with price-matching policies. For example, Best Buy will match any price (in store, online or in print) and also give you a discount of 10% between their price and the lower price.    This means that the new price you would get at Best Buy would be even cheaper than the lowest price you found!  This often applies for a certain amount of time after you bought the item, so keep you eyes peeled!

Look for coupons or discount codes, group buying sites

Once you’ve decided where you will shop, especially if you are buying online, search to see if you can find any coupons or discount codes. The first step would be to check the promotions section of the site you are buying from.  Otherwise, I simply google ‘discount code [store name]’ or ‘coupon [store name]’.  You will find sites such as retailmenot.com which will list different discount codes. The codes for a particular store may or may not apply to the item you are buying.  These are often free shipping or a certain percentage discount.

Use loyalty program or credit card reward points

Before making your purchase, check any loyalty programs you are a member of or any reward credit cards you own to see if you have enough points for a gift card for the store you will be shopping at.  There are often even generic visa, mastercard or amex gift cards that can be extremely useful.  You will need to allow a certain amount of time to receive these gift cards, so you will need to plan in advance if your card doesn’t allow for e-gift cards.

Buy discounted gift cards

Although a gift card is essentially cash, there are many ways to buy them at a discount.  Very often people receive gift cards they wont use. Websites take advantage of this situation by allowing people to get cash for their cards slightly below the card value.  This then allows them to re-sell them at a slightly higher value, while still being below the card value.  This means that you can buy them at a discount!  It is also possible to buy discounted gift cards at stores such as CostcoThis article covers all the options for buying discounted gift cards.

Buy through cashback sites

Another way to save some money on big purchases is to use cashback sites such as ebates, which typically offer between 1 & 5% cashback on purchases.  You can find which cash back sites offer cashback for the site of interest by searching “cashback [store name]”.  These sites require you create a free account so that they know where to send the check after your purchase.  Once you have created your account, simply access the site you are shopping at through the cashback site and make your purchase.  If you do not go through the link on their website, you will not be eligible for the cashback.  You will typically get a check in the mail a few weeks later.

Buy through loyalty program sites

If there is no cashback site for your purchase, you can try buying your item through loyalty program websites, such as Air Miles or Aeroplan.  Although this will not give you an immediate discount, you can get points which can be used towards future purchases. Similarly to cashback sites, you will need to log in to their website and access the purchase site from there.

Pay with cashback or reward credit card

One easy way to save money with any purchase is to pay with a cashback (or rewards) credit card.  Many banks now offer credit cards that give you a certain percentage, often 1 or 2%, of sales back as cash at the end of the month. If you were to spend 1000$, that’s an easy 20$ off!  The cashback really adds up and can save you a lot of money at the end of the year with very little effort required.  I use the Tangerine cashback mastercard which gives 1% cash back on all purchases and 2% back on 3 categories of your choice.

How do you save on big ticket items? Share your tricks in the comments below.

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