Comsumer Guide: How To Spot A Bargain

Find bargains and learn if you're buying value, determining the real cost of a sale item.

How do you tell the difference between a real bargain and an impulse buy? It has something to do with the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach as you hand over the cash. Do you feel a little thrill of achievement, or the dull thud of guilt? Do you proudly show off your new acquisition to your partner - and tell him what it cost - without even being prompted for this vital detail? Or do you sneak your "bargain" in through the back door and surreptitiously hide it in a bottom drawer until you can work out a way to justify buying it?

You can avoid these unpleasant feelings of guilt and regret,

by asking yourself two simple questions. By the time you've answered them, you will know for sure whether you're about to bag a bargain, or waste your money.

How much does that bargain REALLY cost?

OK, so you might've found the most beautiful pair of shoes you've ever seen. Maybe they're even half price. But take a good long look at that price tag - half price or not, can you really afford them - even at their sale cost? If walking out of the store with those shoes is going to set you back two weeks financially, there's no way those shoes could be called a bargain.

A hidden cost of "bargain" clothes lies in special cleaning instructions. Take a second to calm down as you hold that expensive silk shirt in your hands. Shift your focus from the delicious color and exquisite texture for just a minute and think about the practicalities of owning this shirt.

Where's the fabric care label? Does it say "dry clean only"? Do you have the time to handwash, drip dry, and carefully iron this delicate fabric? Do you have the

time -and money - to get it drycleaned regularly? If buying this shirt is going to make you time-poor, you've bought a burden, not a bargain.

Will you really wear it or use it?

Think about how this potential bargain will fit with the rest of your wardrobe or apartment. Sure, that lamp may be $100 cheaper than it was before the sale started, but they only have the burnt orange ones left. You want it for a room that's a buttery yellow. It's just not going to fit,

whatever it costs.

The same principle applies to the perfect dress- in the wrong size. Sure, you may squeeze into it after the diet, but if not, it will hang at the back of the wardrobe, an unwearable waste of money. Better to get something in your

size that makes you feel great, NOW.

It can be hard to make yourself answer these questions when you're flushed with the excitement of the victorious

bargain hunter. But get into the habit of questioning your spending like this, and you will always be sure you bought a bargain, and not a burden.

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