Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hidden Bargains

If you want a Black Friday bargain, you have to be ready to be pepper sprayed, horse collar tackled, and perhaps trampled a few times. There are easier ways to get bargains.

Business Laptops. If you're in the market for a laptop, look at less expensive business models. Unlike laptops specifically aimed at consumers, business laptops are designed for heavy duty use, careless handling (it's the company's property, after all), and enough longevity that sales reps can convince corporate buyers the equipment is cost effective. Many business laptops are shock and spill resistant. They are often preloaded with good quality software. This, all for a price in the $500 to $700 range. Business laptops don't come in pastel colors, and are heavier than personal laptops (the additional ruggedness adds weight). But a well-made one delivers good value for the dollar.

Prepaid Cell Phone Plans. Prepaid plans give you direct feedback about your usage, by forcing you to buy more time when you're running low. These periodic demands for money teach you how much your yacking actually costs. You learn to reduce this negative feedback by controlling phone usage. You save by not paying for time you don't use.

Balanced Investing. A portfolio that's about 50% stocks and 50% bonds offers comparative stability in returns (see Investors who enjoy stable returns are less tempted to trade, incur lower transactions costs, and face less of the volatility that tempts one to buy high and sell low. By reducing these negative factors, balanced portfolios can deliver good long term returns.

Renovated Homes. It's axiomatic among real estate professionals that home renovations, with rare exceptions, boost the value of a house less than 100 cents on the dollar cost of the renovations. This necessarily means a recently renovated home is a comparative bargain for the buyer who carefully researches prices and figures out where the actual market price is. A home that was renovated in the past year or two has a good chance of being a bargain. One that was renovated five or ten years ago may have appreciated enough that buyers don't really get a discount from the renovations (depending on the market). A beat up, water damaged foreclosure sale may a good deal. But so may be a sparkling recently renovated home. Do your research.

Year Old New Cars. Cars on a dealer's lot that are brand new, but one model year old can be an excellent bargain. The dealer will seriously discount them (sometimes with a quiet subsidy from the manufacturer) in order to make room for current year models. Year old new cars can be a better bargain than year old used cars, because they have no mileage but sometimes sell for not much more than a used car with 10,000 miles. Buying what the seller doesn't want is a good way to get a bargain.

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