6 Avoidable Mistakes That Will Get You Overcharged Every Time


Shopping for anything — from a new big ticket item, to small household goods, to replacing a service provider — can be a big hassle. But it's even worse when you later discover you could have paid less. Avoid these six mistakes that will get you overcharged every time. (See also: How Retailers Manipulate You Into Spending More)

1. Signing Up for Free Trials

"Free" is not always free. It's tempting to get a free trial to Netflix, or Amazon Fresh, or any other service, but it's a well-worn sales tactic for a reason: It works a good percentage of the time. Eventually, you'll forget to cancel the subscription, or the company will make it so difficult to cancel that you put it off. If it's a service you will need anyway, then it might save a few bucks. If you never needed or wanted it to begin with, don't bother. You're only signing up for another chore in the short term, or way more expenses in the long term.

2. Not Researching Beforehand

Do your homework when searching for a service or good. Don't settle on the first thing you find, either. Before buying, try comparison shopping sites like Google Shopping, Nextag, or PriceGrabber to see what other stores are charging for an item. You never know where it might be on sale!

In the case of contractors and other services, comparison shopping is key, but it's also important to read reviews by real people. If you can't get a deal, it better be good, right? Having a network of referrals helps reassure that you will get either a good deal or a great job well earned. Ask friends and family for referrals. And in some cases, being the person making the referral will get you discounts.

3. Waiting for an Emergency

Remember Y2K? Once demand increases, so does price. From large decisions like buying fire insurance, to stocking up on supplies like sand bags or toilet paper, you simply cannot wait until an emergency to buy them. Do yourself a favor and invest in fire extinguishers, sand bags, renter's insurance, and other emergency necessities now, not when in need. (See also: 6 Items You May Have Left Out of Your Emergency Preparedness Kit)

4. Soft Negotiating

Negotiating is a pain. But when you're in the car salesman's office, you must keep firm. The poker face is very important. There are lots of little tells that can give the salesperson the upper hand in a high pressure sales situation, resulting in paying way more than you expected to pay. Practice your counter offer tactics and keep firm at your best offer.

5. Buying Retail

Retail is for suckers. Did you know that there are lots of everyday items that can be purchased wholesale or on deep discount? Buy in bulk and you won't only save lots of money per unit, but you also won't have to replace your items as often!

Whether planning a wedding or just replacing home goods, order in bulk. Even eBay has a treasure trove of "lots" of any given item. Costco is great, but there are also overseas wholesalers in places like China waiting to give you a better deal. Try websites such as AliBaba or DHGate. If your stuff is made in China anyway, may as well order direct and avoid the middleman markup.

6. Falling for the Up-Sell

The dreaded question: "Would you like to upgrade to ____?" It always catches you off guard, and right in the middle of that endorphin swell you're riding after having seemingly made a sound purchase. Is what you got good enough?

While there are times when upgrading can really save you money, the chances are you are fine with your first choice. Have a polite but firm line that both rejects the upsell and keeps business genial.

How do YOU avoid being overcharged? Please share in comments!

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