How to Make Sure Your “Deal” Is Really a Deal

How to Make Sure Your “Deal” Is Really a Deal

The Problem

You're in love with a gorgeous purple handbag that you saw at an online sample sale (like the ones offered by Gilt Groupe, Rue La La, Beyond the Rack and HauteLook), but you're not sure if the price is really such a great deal. After all, you've heard all about Scarfgate. What to do?

The Solution

Trust, but verify. A manufacturer's suggested retail price is just that—suggested. Meaning that these websites could inflate your "savings." Most of these sample sale items are not returnable, so take a good, hard look before you leap.

The Action

Before you buy an item, type its exact name into Google and Shopzilla. "You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to find out what other people are charging," says Kathryn Finney, founder of The Budget Fashionista. We saw Jimmy Choo sunglasses on HauteLook for $101, a purported 71% off the original price of $350. But, a simple Google search found the same glasses on Overstock.com for $143. Sure, HauteLook provides a deal--but it's no 70% off. As hard as it is to turn down deep savings, don't let the promise of a limited-time-only sale blind you into buying something in a rush.

If you just like clothing and bargains, Finney says that you're better off with sites like Bluefly, theOutnet, and SmartBargains, which often have more flexible return policies and better sizing options. We were surprised when she told us that the very best deals may actually be found at a brick-and-mortar outlet store near you, where you can also try stuff on (and sometimes take advantage of the outlet mall's coupons, too).

Do You Need It?

Dr. April Lane Benson, PhD is a New York psychologist who specializes in compulsive buying (she's also author of the book, To Buy or Not to Buy). She says online sample sales can be particularly seductive for people who are prone to compulsive shopping behavior, so be cautious with these flash sales. It's easy to feel like you're saving money when you buy at a discount, which causes you to forget that you don't need the item, can't afford it, don't have a place to put it, and won't wear it. No matter how low the price, if you're just not going to use something, it's wasted money.

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