Five popular shopping myths debunked
If you think a super-sized container of peanut butter is always a better deal than a tiny version, think again. Bigger is not always cheaper. And don’t count on getting a bargain on designer goods at an outlet or off-price chain.
Here are five common but mistaken assumptions about bargains — plus tips for avoiding getting fooled into paying too much.
Myth No. 1. Bigger packages and larger quantities are more economical than buying small.
Often, yes. But Tod Marks, a senior project editor at Consumer Reports, said smaller sizes are actually cheaper about one-fourth of the time. He recommends checking the unit prices — cost per ounce or other element of the package — to find the best deal.
Takeaway: Read the fine print, and don’t assume.
Myth No. 2. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the best day of the year to buy clothes, housewares, electronics and gifts.
Sure, the promotions on that ballyhooed day are quite alluring, particularly on TVs and other electronics. But are the bargains so amazing that you should wake up at the crack of dawn and join the crowds? Definitely not.
Many of the biggest deals, particularly on TVs and computers, are very limited: Your chances of grabbing one of the 25 heavily advertised flat-panel TVs your store is selling at 50 percent off are slim.
In fact, many of the traditional marquee promotions — like January “white sales,” when department stores discounted bedding and bath linens — have melted away. Michael Londrigan, chairman of the fashion merchandising department at LIM College in Manhattan, points to Macy’s for an example: It now offers sales on bedding throughout the year.
Jodi Furman, who blogs about saving without sacrificing at www.LiveFabuLess.com, said Black Friday is more of an emotional event people get caught up in than it is an opportunity for special savings. “You can find better deals during regular sales events,” Furman said.
Retailers are now running significant promotions all year long, from free shipping to 50 percent discounts to buy-one-get-one-free, according to Marks.
Takeaway: Go online, whether by computer or one of many dedicated smartphone apps, and compare, compare, compare.
Myth No. 3. Outlets sell mainly extras and leftovers from their own regular-price stores.
Actually, outlets vary by merchant. Some stock their outlets mostly with items direct from their own regular stores. But many others buy specifically for the outlet division or, like Brooks Brothers and Gap, have goods made specifically for these second-tier stores.
At Nordstrom Rack, for example, about 80 percent of the stock is purchased specifically for sale there and just 20 percent has been transferred from full-price Nordstrom department stores.
But Colin Johnson, a Nordstrom spokesman, notes that much of the Nordstrom Rack stock is excess inventory from the same vendors whose goods Nordstrom stores routinely carry.
Takeaway: Check the label of anything you’re considering buying to determine whether it was made for the outlet, Marks said. Or ask a salesperson.
Myth No. 4. A weekly outing — with a list in hand — to Walmart, Target or another big box discounter is the best way to save on groceries.
Yes, shopping at Target or Walmart for a typical basket of 45 items will save you 15 to 25 percent, said Bob Buchanan, a retail consultant in St. Louis, Mo. But shoppers would do even better by scouring for deals at local grocery stores as well.
Remember, too, that super-size stores can tempt you to go off-list and spend much more than you intend buying clothing, toys and other goods.
Takeaway: Furman recommended constantly comparing prices for specific items at discounters with grocers and other stores.
Myth No. 5. Food costs more at drug stores.
In reality, compared with grocery chains, many drug stores sell basics like milk, eggs and household cleaning and paper goods for less. The idea is that then shoppers will buy other more profitable items.
Some drug chains, including Walgreens and CVS, have loyalty programs that — if used carefully and consistently — can net a shopper occasional savings up to 80 percent, Furman said.
Takeaway: Drug stores are becoming increasingly like mass retailers, so include them in your rounds when you’re buying staples.