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Crazy Sales Aren’t Always Better Deals: 5 tips

Last Updated on November 17, 2021 by Mr. FightToFIRE

In Belgium, the shopping season is in full swing during two periods:

  1. December – January
  2. July- August

These always dominate the main street till the end of their respective period (and sometimes even beyond that).
For all of January (and again in August), shops and online stores try to tempt you with “amazing deals”, “huge discounts”, “super sales”, etc. It’s the perfect time for us looking to reach FIRE to make purchases we held off, right?

This should be an excellent opportunity to get good deals on goods that are otherwise more expensive. While this makes sense, you should be careful before you consider buying anything.
Whether it’s online or in a physical store, sellers apply various tricks which might end up making you pay or buy more than you originally foresaw.

Here are some of these tricks you should look out for before thinking you scored the most amazing deal ever during sales.
These tips and tricks also work great on other commercial shopping crazes such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, boxing day, etc.

This page contains (Dutch) affiliate links to products I purchased this month.

In this July 3, 2018, photo, shoppers walk past sale signs in San Francisco

Watch out for attention-grabbing statements

  • “Up to -60%”: That “to” is key here. What you can find in the shop, is not necessarily discounted at 60%. Usually most of the items are even only priced down to -20% or -30%.
  • “Be quick!”: Don’t be rushed and wonder if you would like the item if it wasn’t discounted. Eventhough this might be tempting on days like Black Friday where you only see crazy rushes.
  • “Round prices”: Both in percentages (“-70%!”) and in absolute figures (“All at €10!”). The latter would have the strongest effect on buyers.

Raising prices before the sale period

Shops dare to raise the price shortly before the sales so that the price difference seems larger. But usually, the difference isn’t all that big. Sellers just take the discounts into account when they calculate their (original) full price, so they don’t lose at the end of the ride.

A pile of cheap shoes for sale

Be wary of low quality goods

Do you see a huge pile of stuff with a  60% discount? You should question the quality of these products then.
These items could’ve been specially made for the sales, or it are goods that the seller isn’t able to sell due to being found undesirable by people who already bought it.

It’s very possible that there is nothing wrong with them and they are discontinued items that must be cleared to make room for a new version.

Know what you want

Want the most choice? Then go in the first week of the sales before others already took the size you need or that one color you really like.

Do you want the lowest prices? Then it’s better not to go on a bargain hunt until the last week. This holds especially true if you aren’t tied down by size or color and need a certain product regardless of specific needs.

By comparing online to retail you can get the best price.

To the shop or just online?

The most import thing here: compare. One is not necessarily more expensive or cheaper than the other.

Online shopping can be more expensive you might first think. Online shops have shipping costs, and they try to cover these with higher prices. Moreover, the manufacturer or brand owner determines the selling price, and they won’t want to compete with their real stores. Physical stores have other costs to compensate, such as the rent of the store building and more personal.

Last but not least, since many web shops operate from abroad, you can just as easily participate in the foreign bargains.
There are also outlet webshops, which offer discounts all year round. So why wait for our sales?

The following warning is specific to the Belgian market, so I don’t count it as a real tip.

Buy one, get one free

The blocking period no longer exists

The blocking period is the month before the sales in which sellers are not allowed to communicate sales.
The tie-in sale (where you only get a discount when you buy another certain product) is already applied everywhere. At the end of the day, such a tie-in is also a form of selling making the blackout period a hollow concept. So don’t hesitate to already search for deals the month before the sales.

In the end, you can definitely get an amazing deal, but you should be extra careful as well during (these) sales. I actually made use of this period to get some things I put off for quite some time. I finally got myself:

  • A decent U-lock (Abus Granit X Plus ), my Axa defender Ring Lock came with a cable lock but besides showing lots of rust, it’s inherently worthless against the most basic of tools, i.e., a simple pair of cutters, so I decided to up the game for my bike(s’) security and get a decent though still affordable U-lock.
  • 2 1.8m micro-USB nylon cables (Anker), nylon cables last a lot longer because it can’t experience rubber fatigue.
  • A power bank (Xtorm al421 ), quality power bank for my daily commutes since I use my smartphone a lot. Will also be very convenient during (holiday) trips.
  • Scratchable world map (Luckies scratch map deluxe ), really cool map that allows you to make the parts visible that you visited (on a budget of course 😉 )

These purchases will have a clear impact on my savings rate. While the month isn’t over yet, my Savings Rate up until today (21/01/2019) sits at about 74%. Be sure to keep an eye out for my update at the end of this month.

I'm a developer for a major financial institution in Belgium that is present in over 40 countries. I have over 8 years of working experience in the development of customer applications focussing on all aspects of banking. This helped me gain a deep understanding of the inner workings of a commercial bank. All of this experience in both banking and life culminates in this blog about personal finance and my fight towards FIRE.

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Meine Finanzielle Freiheit

Nice article on the craziness of sales!
In my opinion its best to distance yourself completely from frivolous sales offers. You should only buy what you need and not what is on sale! Even the best bargain is more expensive than buying nothing 😉
All the best with your blog!

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