How to Become One of Those "Lucky" People Who Scores Great Deals
A friend recently commented that I have the best luck at getting deals and freebies.
"I don't think it's luck," I replied. "I'm pretty sure it's genius."
No one likes to admit their success is just luck, right? But it made me think. Is it possible to make your own luck when it comes to frugal living?
I think it is. Here are my best 11 tricks for becoming a frugally lucky person and finding more than your share of deals and freebies. (See also: How to Win Sweepstakes)
1. Be Patient
You know how they say that if you want a dog, you should just wait, because eventually the right dog will come to you? I feel the same way about stuff. It may take years, but eventually, that end table or juice maker you need or want will probably turn up at a bargain price. (See also: 9 Easy Steps to Become More Patient)
This year I decided I wanted a record player. I started looking for them at rummage sales, but never found quite the right one. I considered just buying a new one, but I am way too cheap for that. So I waited. I even bought some brand new Beatles records on clearance and left them sitting on a shelf for the player that I hoped I'd find eventually.
Within a week of buying those records, I saw the perfect record player — sitting on the curb! It was so new it had a USB port, and someone was just throwing it out. I'm using it to play my Beatles records right now, and it sounds great.
Was this luck, or just having the patience to wait it out? Ask yourself this: How many times have you bought something new, only to find a much better deal on it a week later?
2. Be Constantly Vigilant
To a true bargain hunter, walking through a store or even down the street is like playing a video game. You have to always be on the lookout for treasure you can scoop up.
If I have extra time, I will always pop into an unfamiliar store just to see if they might have a clearance shelf. If it turns out to be a store with good deals, it'll be on my list of places to check back often.
3. Be Assertive
It feels awkward to ask for a better deal — whether it's haggling over a used car or simply asking for a markdown on about-to-expire milk — but remember that the worst that anyone will say is "no." I have found that most store employees are happy to help you save money if they can. (See also: How to Negotiate With Confidence)
4. Be Persistent
When I first joined Freecycle, I was able to easily get rid of stuff that had been cluttering up my house, but I didn't find anything I needed. Still, I kept my email subscription active, and I kept watching the offers. Eventually, items came up that interested me — but I wasn't the first to ask for them, and I didn't get them.
I continued to stick with it, and over the years I have gratefully accepted a number of useful items, including a futon, a bike trailer, and, most recently, a new-to-me bicycle.
5. Use a Checklist
When I need something, I go through a number of steps before breaking down and paying full price for it. My checklist looks like this:
Ask for it on Freecycle
Search for coupon codes
Shop through Ebates
I rarely buy something without going through my checklist, and when I do, I usually regret it.
6. Stay Up to Date
Just as doctors must constantly read medical journals to keep their knowledge fresh, so must bargain hunters keep up with bargain blogs to know the latest trends. (What? Bargain hunting is a lot like performing surgery, don't you think?)
In addition to the field research mentioned in item two, I also interrogate fellow shoppers about their shopping experiences. When a friend rents a car, I want to know if they got a free upgrade, and if so, how. Some friends might be annoyed by questions about prices, but kindred spirits love sharing how they got a deal.
7. Try New Things
Of course, the new thing you try won't always work out. When my husband and I were buying our first home back in 2001, we signed up for a new online real estate agency that promised to share its commission with buyers in the form of a 1% rebate. Not only did the company offer substandard service, but it ended up going out of business just before we closed our deal.
My husband was not happy with me for making our first buying experience more difficult in pursuit of a one percent rebate. But in my defense, we did end up finding a great place to buy, and we got the rebate. It just turned out to be a huge hassle.
8. Embrace Serendipity
Many frugal shoppers believe in strictly sticking to a list. I try to enter a store with an open mind. A few months ago I went to Salvation Army in search of a curtain. I didn't find it — on that trip — but I did find a Batman bedspread for my son's bed. Every night when I tuck him in, he thanks me for that bedspread.
9. Be Creative
In the same vein, there are bargains that you have to think up a use for before recognizing them as bargains. My grandmother — a Depression baby — is particularly good at this. Think old tablecloths as Halloween costumes and old tableware as bird feeders. If only I were really crafty I could do much more in this area, but I do what I can. (See also: Repurpose These Kitchen Cast-Offs Into Cool New Things)
10. Be Shameless
A lot of people are embarrassed to pick something up off the curb or out of a trash can, or even buy something second hand. I am not, and I have benefited greatly from this lack of shame. I even dabbled in freeganism for the first time recently, finding some mostly good produce discarded outside my regular grocery store.
Remember George Costanza and the trashcan eclair? When I was a schoolgirl, "garbage picker" was about the worst insult anyone could hurl. But I hope that environmental consciousness, the concept of upcycling, and shows like American Pickers have helped people get over this. If not, that's more treasures for those of us with no shame!
11. Have Fun With It
All the tips above are useless if you don't enjoy the thrill of the bargain hunt. This is not a list of virtues — to be honest, some of these habits make me extremely annoying to my family and friends. If you are strictly looking at a cost/benefit analysis, you may be better off spending your time studying investments or working overtime to earn more money than hunting for bargains.
But if you feel like a million bucks when you discover that one gem that every other shopper passed by? If you love having a good hunting story attached to every piece of decor in your home? Then these tips should help you win more often.
Now go forth and get winning!
What makes you frugally lucky?