Guest Post: Spring Tips for Making Better Pocketbook Decisions

Spring is officially here. A time to get outside, try a new restaurant, plan a summer outing or purchase that big ticket item you’ve been eyeing all winter. While the economy appears to be looking up, people are still looking for new ways to save money and find the best deals. With that in mind, we invited Farnoosh Torabi a leading personal finance expert, author and TV personality to share her advice on some easy ways you can enjoy the spring season without breaking your budget.

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Bing Mobile Deals: One-Stop-Shop for Local Discounts

Last year, sites like Groupon and Living Social sprang onto the scene introducing people to a new way to find low cost deals in their area. Now, Bing has taken the concept a step further. Bing mobile deals aggregates local deals and coupons from Groupon, LivingSocial, Tippr and many others, giving you access to over 200,000 local offers in more than 14,000 cities in the U.S. Visit m.bing.com on your iPhone or Android to explore discounts and coupons near you. With one click, you’ll see the top daily deals featuring the very best offers in your metro area, with savings generally from 30%-50% off.

Not Sure If It’s “Worth It?” Consider the Trade-Offs and Phone a Friend.

Before you ring it up, ask yourself, “What are the trade-offs?” If you have enough cash in the bank and the purchase isn’t going to compromise your rainy day funds, then chances are you can afford it. But what if buying a new laptop is the difference between going to the Bahamas for spring break or a staycation?   When we put purchases in the context of trade-offs, the decision becomes clearer, more appropriate and personal.

For big-ticket items, it sometimes helps to even grab a second opinion. (And no, the sales assistant’s approval doesn’t cut it.) You want to ask someone who understands your goals and can give you honest advice on whether that new sofa is worth the $1,200 price tag.

One of Your Best Defenses When Shopping: Time.

We’re all guilty of waiting until the last minute. But procrastinating often leads to overspending and impulse shopping simply because we give ourselves less time for comparing options. The fact is we’re typically overly confident in our ability to find everything we need in a timely fashion. Behavioral experts call this a “planning fallacy.” Studies show we overestimate how successful our shopping will be and underestimate how much time it will take to complete our shopping.

Stick to Your List, Too!

As Atul Gawande writes in his best-selling book The Checklist Manifesto, a simple run-down of Do’s “overcomes failure … and makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies.” Hey, if lists have helped the rise of modern science and surgery as Gawande explains, then they can most likely help us achieve our shopping goals both when we have ample time and when in a hurry.

No Sale? No Problem. Ask For a Discount.

Don’t be shy. If you happen to be buying more than a few hundred dollars’ worth of merchandise, simply ask for a discount. Ask, “Can you do any better on this?” or “I’m on a budget. Is there any wiggle room on the price?” The key is to be friendly and remember to smile. Never act like you’re entitled to the discount; act like you’re genuinely seeking help. If you’re buying a few pairs of shoes or multiples of anything, see if the store can knock 10% off for you or throw in some sort of freebie. And if it’s the final item of its kind in the store, a floor sample or you notice a spot or a loose thread – ask for a discount! I do this all the time and it gets me at least 10% off instantly. Remember – with so much competition in the retail world, it’s in the store’s best interest to get you to shop…even if it means giving you a small price break.

Farnoosh Torabi

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