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Consumer Reports Money Adviser December Issue

How to get the best deals this holiday season

Consumer ReportsWith the holiday shopping season in full swing, consumers are buying things they don’t buy very often. But even when shopping in unfamiliar territory, you can get great deals on top-quality items if you know what to look for.

The editors of Consumer Reports Money Adviser compiled a list of the best shopping advice from Consumer Reports’ test labs and other sources.

The full report is available at Consumer Reports.

“No matter what you’re buying, you should also try haggling for a better price” said Noreen Perrotta, Editor, Consumer Reports Money Adviser.  “Consumer Reports’ surveys have found that it generally pays to negotiate a discount, and you can even haggle when shopping online. But to do that you’ll need to negotiate over the phone or e-mail”

Here are some of CRMA’s tips on how to get the best deals this holiday season.

Clothing

You might be able to save the most at outlet stores. But outlet prices aren’t always the lowest, and the quality might not be quite as good as items you’ll find in regular stores. Here’s how to get the best duds at the best price no matter where you shop:

  • Check for quality details. Buttons should be sewn on tightly. Look for reinforced stitching on pockets, necklines, armholes, and shoulders so they won’t rip when pulled or tugged. Not every garment needs a lining, but it’s a sign an item is well-made.
  • Avoid garments with uneven seamsor balls of thread on the inside of a seam. Ideally, hems should be sewn with a blind-hem stitch; the stitches are tiny, neat, and even, and you can’t see them on the outside.
  • Log on. You might find special deals and discounts online that you can use in stores. See if the clothing retailers you’ll be buying from have outlet websites or Facebook pages. Type the name of the stores and the word “outlet” into your web browser.

Personal Electronics

If electronics sales fall short of retailers’ goals, prices might plummet in the final weeks of the year, as they have in past years. So if you bought early, check the retailer’s return and price-matching policies.

  • Buy online. The best online retailers outscored the best walk-in stores in Consumer Reports’ annual surveys of the best places to buy electronics and computers, in many cases because they were standouts for both price and selection.
  • Use shopping bots. These are sites where you can check prices at hundreds of retailers. You can sort the listings by price and check reader reviews of products and retailers. Sites to consider include BizRate (and its affiliate, Shopzilla), Google Shopping, MySimon, PriceGrabber, Shopping.com (and affiliate DealTime), and Yahoo. Some bots will send you e-mail alerts when they find retailers selling the model you want in your target price range.

Small Appliances

  • Check a brand’s track record. You can boost your odds of buying a good model by checking past performance of the brand. Go to Brand Repair History for appliances, at www.ConsumerReports.org. And you might save money because lower-priced mainstream brands have often been more reliable than upscale brands.
  • Say no to extended warranties. While they might boost profits for stores, extended warranties are generally a bad deal for consumers because most products (including those in other categories CR tests, like electronics) don’t break within the three years most service plans cover. Repairs often cost about the same as the warranty, so you’re better off taking your chances.

Wine

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a good bottle of wine. CR has found some excellent bottles for less than $20.00 and some very good ones for as little as $8.00.

  • Find deals online. If you don’t have a specific wine in mind, check out www.winezap.com. You key in a type of wine and price range, and up pops a list of suggested wines. For each label, the site displays food pairings, reviews, and vendors. It also shows the best prices, including shipping and tax. If you already know which wine you want, enter its name at www.winesearcher.com, which lists wines by price and vendor. The site culls its information from more than 19,000 wine stores, wineries, and wine auctions.
  • Order by the case. If you’ll be buying wine for many people on your list this holiday, look for retailers and wineries offering case discounts, some as much as 10 percent. If you order online, buying in bulk is also likely to get you a break on shipping costs.

About the Consumer Reports Money Adviser

Consumer Reports Money Adviser is a monthly, subscription-only newsletter that answers tough money questions and provides expert financial advice. Its proven information and successful strategies can make any financial decision an easy one. Each month, CRMA provides feature articles and helpful investment, savings, and spending advice that will help prepare consumers for anything life may bring them. For more information visit: www.ConsumerReports.org.

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