Empowered Buyers: 10 Steps to get Everything You Want in Your Next Purchase.

Using my principles you too can be a pretentious Acura owning snob.
Okay, it is a 2003 model; but I still want to take up cigar smoking and
get a subscription to Golf magazine.  
Lately I've written a lot about not needing material possessions, but there comes a time when necessity dictates a purchase.  In my past lifetime I was a salesperson, so I've learned a few tricks as a consumer to get nearly everything you want in any budget.

I recently had to buy a new vehicle because my beloved Nissan Murano started having transmission problems. And knowing that those problems translated to a $3000 dollar fix, it was time to put ole' Murano down.  So I traded it in to a dealer, and bought an Acura MDX.  They will prudently euthanize my Murano (read: they will sell it to some sucker).

Here's 10 ways to ensure you are never the sucker.

10. Never pick a specific model.  Consumer Reports readers fall in love with "Best Buys," and other people get fixated on a make or model of something they loved in the past; yet this is a salesman's dream. You didn't do your own research. Years ago, CR picked a Kenmore vacuum as their "best buy" and it was nothing but problems.  CR loves features: an extendable wand? check; a 20' hose extension? check; a belt-less beater bar? check...reliability? Uh, not really...but it has really flashy features.  If the customer had the time to listen, I'd redirect them to a vacuum that was $100 dollars cheaper, lighter, less clunky, and totally reliable.  What percentage of customers listened?  about 40%.  They kept their vacuums.  The customers who listened to CR returned them...en masse.  Oh well, I made more in commission on the CR "best buy" model.  

Clemson Tigers? Bengels? Nerd? 
9. Never buy based on looks. If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty model your life. I'm not saying that you have to buy unattractive products like the Nissan Cube, or Crocs because they are good deals...just don't let smooth lines, fancy LED lighting, and Apple-type stainless steel trim play with your mind. Nothing gold can stay...

8. Buy out of season. Patience is a virtue; a virtue many of us don't possess. I've learned to buy my camping supplies and softball gear in October, when it is a whole 9 months from playtime.  Yet on average I save at least 50% off the summer cost. In February, as un-festive as it is, I purchased an 8' lighted Christmas tree for $20 (originally $300). While I'll miss the smell of a real tree, I won't miss my wife's allergies, the disposing of, and constant maintenance of a dead conifer in my living room (or the yearly rising cost of dead trees). Patience always pays off.

In retrospect, this car actually looks better than Kitt.  
7.  Never buy the last year of an old design.  Those poor souls who bought the 1993 Dodge Ram, or the 1981 Chevy Camaro.  How many guys were driving around their '81 Camaros, Trans Ams, or Firebirds (all essentially the same car), when Knight Rider came out and instantly made their year old body style lame. Most body styles last four to six years.  Buy the second - forth years, as the "add ons" in later years aren't worth the extra cost.  Nobody knows the difference between a 2008 and a 2012 Honda Accord except for the buyer who either saved or swallowed the $10k difference in cost.

Iphone 4 reception issues?
Not anymore.  
6. Try not to buy the first year of a new redesign. You want to be cool, right?  You wanted the first iPad with its little memory and no camera, you got it.  Couldn't wait eight months for the kinks to get worked out, right?  Basically, all products get tweaked between the initial manufacture run and subsequent reorders. Most product recalls are in that initial 6 months a product is manufactured. Year three is usually the most reliable of any given product on the market.

More like "Ready when I feel like it"
5. Ignore patented jargon.  Versa-cut, Durafoam, StabiliTrak, Wikaway, what do they all mean?  Mostly nothing other than a company paid to have a useless feature patented. I used to sell treadmills, and every single make and model had a different cushioning system (even though all five of our brands were owned by the same conglomerate--Icon Health and Fitness).  The more money you spent, the more "foam" (and fancy patented names) you got to separate the deck from the frame. Like shoes, the best solution is to try them out.  Give everything a test drive, and ignore the salesman harping about some product's "industry exclusive." If something works, every brand will have its variation of it in five months.

4.  Never tell the salesman what your "price range" is. An honest salesman should sell based on needed features, and not budget. 90% of the time a salesman has his/her own interests in mind.  Remember you hold ALL the CARDS.  A salesman makes NOTHING, if you walk away. Don't like a salesperson's attitude?  Request another one, or ask for a manager.  Salespeople are only pushy because we ALLOW them to be pushy.  This isn't middle school, or your first beau; don't get bullied/manipulated into something you DON'T want.  It's your freakin' money, so man up!

3.  Do some research.  Even if you have to walk away and look it up on your smart phone, you need to be educated. Know what the cost should be and what is a good deal.  Some stores have the same sales every single week.  Just because it's 50% off, doesn't mean it is a good deal.  Know which stores and retailers mark their prices up so that their sales look even better. I can't do my grocery shopping at Albertsons (huge chain west of the Mississippi) anymore, because only 1/4 of the items I need are on sale, and the rest are so marked up, it makes for ridiculous shopping experience. There's always a better deal.  You may not be willing to search it out, but you should imply to the salesperson, that their deal isn't that good.  Be ready to negotiate and use your research to your advantage.  Yes, even in stores with "set prices" like Walmart. Almost all stores will price match to beat a competitor.

I like a good moonroof on my RV.  
2. Search out the scratch and dent section. While I love me some e-shopping, nothing beats brick and mortar stores for returns. Clearance, mark-downs, repackages, refurbished and floor models can be purchased for AT LEAST 20% off the SALE price. I love finding these deals, but often times the brand new item in a pristine box is only a few dollars more. Notify a manager about the discrepancy. They want that stuff out of the store, and can make additional markdowns. No store wants to look like a garage sale. They will make concessions to get junky looking products out of their store.

1.  Never fall in love with anything. No car, no house, no phone, no television, no DEAL is so good, that you shouldn't be able to walk away if your terms aren't met. Too many people fall in love with an item and wave the small green flags of surrender. NO! Save your money. Make them sweat. Make them sweeten the deal. A good customer will say, "I want this price, this product, delivered on this day, with zero percent interest for a year..."  Maybe the retailer can't meet those demands, but a good salesman will say, "well, on such and such a day you can get it a little cheaper, and we will have no financing"...employees usually have a heads up on future sales (especially major holidays).  A customer can make demands...and if these demands aren't outrageous, the seller will usually comply.

Be empowered. It's your money, you should get the best deal.

Now excuse me, I have to buy a monocle and some leather bound books to go with my new Acura.  


  1. Gah! I am the WORST. Except for the research part, I violate many, nay, most of these guidelines. My Honda was the last year of that body style (although to this day, I still prefer it to the next one), I always have something WAY too specific in mind, and I fall in love too often - especially with how pretty a car is. Right now I really want a midnight blue, 2012 Subaru Outback, 2.5i Limited. I am the worst. This is why I let my husband make those decisions.
    And Acura? That was my first car - but it was an '87 Legend. You know, a granny car. You've got class with a capital K.

    1. I want the Suburu WRX...but with kids, I'm more in the Outback category. Well, I was. Now I'm an Acura guy. Those Legends were cool cars back in the day.

  2. Salesmen totally intimidate me! That's why I usually just do a bunch of research and buy online. Greg's good at the price-matching game. I'm too timid to even ask, so it's nice to have him around. And I'm totally one of those that gets fixated on a specific make or model. When my Corolla dies, it's going to be a hard sell to get me to buy anything but a Toyota. However, Acuras *are* pretty sweet! Enjoy your new ride.

    1. I like shopping online, but still find the best deals on store clearance racks. Things like new DVDs or books might be cheaper online, but stores often run 10% off promos, which when buying furniture, or other items that are cap priced, is more often better than the price online.

  3. I spent a summer in college selling cars in Marietta, GA. You have a good list. The problem is people will generally break at least a couple of your rules. Salesmen are also trying to counter punch whatever strategy it is you have. It's an interesting dance, that's for sure!

    1. This was the first time I've ever felt like I had the dealer on the ropes...he really panicked and finally said, what if I gave you $1500 more than our previous best offer on your trade in (which was already $2K more than its trade in value)? It was more than my best case scenario. I think walking out of the room really got to this kid. Oh well, they'll still make money, and I got a deal.