Savvy Discounts the book
by Editor, Rick Doble (Richard Degaris Doble, Doble Richard Degaris)
of published by Perigee, a division of Penguin Books.
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Save $1000s on expensive products, get discounts on computers, automobiles, jewelery, exercise and audio-visual equipment, furniture, large appliances and more.

This book list lots of strategies, when these items go on sale, when to buy new and when to buy used, how to avoid getting ripped off, how to bargain and a whole lot more.

Click here to see the table of contents and read information you will find in this book.


  • Important How To Use This Book
    --- Read This First
  • Chapter 1 Introduction
    --- Getting Started On The Right Foot
  • Chapter 2 15 Key Strategies For Saving Thousands
    --- Or doesn't this go on sale soon?
  • Chapter 3 16 Tips To Help You Get The Very Best Deal
    --- Savvy advice from a seasoned shopper
  • Chapter 4 Appliance Intelligence
    --- How to cook meals and do the family laundry for a song
  • Chapter 5 Audiovisual Delights
    --- Channel surf with your big screen TV, but will it work with HDTV?
  • Chapter 6 Automobile Attractions
    --- Don't get taken for a ride
  • Chapter 7 Computer Crunch
    --- Don't even think about it unless you can back it up
  • Chapter 8 Exercise Equipment Ecstasy
    --- Get your butt in gear without paying through the nose
  • Chapter 9 Furniture Frustrations
    ---- It looked good in the showroom so why is it different in my house?
  • Chapter 10 Gems, Jewelry And Phony Discounts
    --- All that glitters is not gold
  • Chapter 11 Internet Research And Shopping Plus Mail Order
    --- Window shop with your web browser
  • Worksheet Standard Form For Ordering Over The Internet Or Via Mail Order
    --- Copy this and fill it out for each order


Think of each chapter like a recipe: learn about the product, comparison shop, make the best deal, be sure you got what you paid for and then enjoy. Each chapter is divided into the following sections so that you can skim quickly and go directly to those parts that interest you the most:

What Buyers Need To Know
Comparison Shopping
Before Shopping
Buyer Beware
Discount Strategies
Making The Deal
After The Sale

Armed with this information, you can even take this book with you while you shop.

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All the purchases in this book involve technical terms. Each product category has a slew of them.

While it is unlikely that you could learn all the tech words, you should know the most important ones. Salespeople often gauge customers by their understanding of basic features. A classic way to manipulate a customer is to confuse him or her with a lot of technical jargon.

In addition to general product terms, each company may have its own particular name for a feature. This can lead to a lot of confusion. When talking to a salesperson, insist on using the general term because then you can compare a Panasonic to a Sony.

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We will go into detail about each strategy but here is an overview of the strategies that could save you thousands over the years. You are not limited to using just one strategy at a time; often you can combine two, three or more strategies to get the very best price. I will explain how to do this at the end of the chapter.

#1. Comparison shopping

#2. Haggling for a low price

#3. Haggling for extras

#4. Custom configurations

#5. Regular sales

#6. Rebates

#7. Unusual Discounts and Sales

#8. Internet Shopping and Mail Order

#9. Outlet stores and outlet malls

#10. Closeouts and discontinued models

#11. Floor models, demonstrators, scratch-and-dent

#12. Refurbished

#13. Used

#14. Financing

#15. Extra discounts

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Features, Features, Features

The modern trend is to add more features to any product. Even furniture can come with extras, such as reclining chairs with vibrators or trays.

The joke goes that people with Masters Degrees cannot program their VCRs. Just because a device has a feature does not mean you will use it. While you will often have to buy a model with more features than you want, don't pay extra for things you may never use.

Some features are well worth it. I found that the electronic ignition on our gas stove used much less gas vs. the old pilot design and the kitchen was cooler in the summer. A dishwasher with a temperature boost will save you money on your hot water bill. You'll be able to turn the water heater setting down and still get very hot temperatures to clean the dishes.

Adding features should not interfere with the basic operation. Even a state-of-the-art phone with a speaker, memory and speed dialing should be simple if you just want to make a call.

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Don't cry too many tears when your old refrigerator finally gives up the ghost. A new fridge is much more efficient. It is likely that it will pay for itself in a few years by saving you money. The same is true for other appliances such as gas stoves and air conditioners and even clothes washers and dryers. A new energy efficient appliance could save you 20% to 50% a year on energy costs.

Major appliances are a long term purchase lasting generally from 10 to 20 years. Take your time to make sure that you get the very best deal since you will be living with it for a long time.

Like furniture you will need to measure the space available. I recommend a quality tape measure. Appliances not only need room, they need working room. For example, a refrigerator does not simply sit there; doors need to be opened fully so that bins and movable shelves can swing out. Side-by-side refrigerators often require less working room than top-freezer refrigerators with their full sized doors. A refrigerator should be located far from any heat producing device such as a stove or clothes dryer and should be an inch or more from the nearest wall so it can cool properly.

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With the change from analog to digital TV and from the standard TV format to the high definition format (HDTV), you can expect lots of problems. "We are about to go through five years of TV hell," said Josh Bernoff with Forrester Research quoted in USA TODAY in 2002. Be wary of claims of future compatibility. Don't buy new expensive technology until you must. For example, the price of digital TV should start to fall sharply as more sets are made.

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The ideal car purchase would be a great deal on a comfortable automobile that required low insurance premiums and low maintenance, was reliable and needed few repairs, was considered safe in a crash, got great gas mileage and that held its resale value. Is there such a vehicle? The answer is a resounding yes in just about any category you want to pick: economy, mini-van, SUV, truck and luxury car. The trick is to go through the various ratings and find the ones that meet all these criteria. Crunching these numbers used to be quite difficult and time consuming. Now with the help of the Internet, the job is easy. Plus the Internet is a gold mine for comparing loan costs. In 2001 roughly 50% of buyers researched both used and new cars on the net before buying; 4% of purchases of new cars were even made completely on the net. I will go into more detail about web resources later in this chapter.

Buying a car is usually three transactions not just one. It is easy to get a good deal at one end and get taken at the other. The smart consumer will separate these as much as possible so that they don't get mingled together and disguise the true costs. Negotiate each one by itself.

The three transactions are these:

#1. Buying the car, whether it is new or used

#2. Financing the purchase

#3. Selling or trading-in your old vehicle

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People often ask me,"I need to get a computer, what should I get?"

I don't give them a direct answer. Instead I reply, "What do you want to do with your computer? How important is the work you will be doing?"

If you have a clear idea of the tasks you want your computer to accomplish, you won't pay for software and hardware you don't use. These days you can buy a computer configured to your individual needs.

A computer is not like a car. With a car you have a pretty clear idea of where you need to go because you do it regularly throughout the year: go from home to work, carry the groceries, go on a camping trip and drive through heavy snow in the winter, for example. But a computer can be many different things. This will be determined as much by the software as the initial hardware. It will be up to you to decide just how to configure it and how to shape it into the kind of machine you need.

To a musician a computer might be a sophisticated drum machine, a mixing and editing device for various recorded tracks and a CD burner. To a photographer, the computer might be a photo archive and manager, a digital darkroom and an interactive gallery. To a writer, the computer might be a note taker, a database manager, a spell checker, a thesaurus, and a desktop publisher. It is very likely that you have a clear notion of some of the things you want it to do and a vague notion of other tasks.

A good rule of thumb is that the initial cost of the computer will be about a third to half of your total cost. After you buy the machine, you will probably want to add more software, a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) and a way to easily back up your data. In addition you may also want to add more memory, another hard drive, and a card for specialized tasks such as video. As you can see, the costs can rise dramatically.

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Exercise equipment is often an impulsive purchase. You really want to get those muscles moving, lose some weight and feel better about yourself. The TV ads may look very enticing: all those happy healthy people showing you how easy it is. For only twenty minutes, three times a week you will look like Charles Atlas.

Now for a reality check. Much if not most equipment ends up in the closet and never gets used. People start with good intentions but cannot keep up. Spending a lot of money is not as important as finding the right equipment that you enjoy using and that you can stick with. How much you like and use a particular exercise machine is more personal and more individual than just about any other product category included in this book.

And remember all those barely used exercise machines that ended up in storage. You can probably get these for as much as 75% off by looking in the classified ads in your local newspaper.

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You can spend thousands of dollars on just the right sofa with the perfect fabric or fifty dollars for a yard sale couch in good condition. The fifty dollar couch will last for years and the kids can jump on it.

There is more variation in price with furniture than just about any category in this book. The choice is up to you how much you want to spend.

In addition there are dozens of major furniture manufacturers that often make hundreds of different pieces that can be covered or finished in hundreds of different ways. The number of choices is mind boggling. You live with your furniture every day. Finding the right cabinet that goes with the furniture you already own could cost a lot of money and take a bit of time and patience. If you are buying several pieces of furniture, it is even more important that you make sure they fit together. To get the best value you should not be in a hurry.

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Jewelry is a particularly emotional purchase, especially for women. Jewelry is more than just the stones and the metal. I know this because my wife is a jeweler and I can see the comfort that many women get from her well made art. Some even sleep with their earrings on!

Now consider that engagement ring or wedding ring. Such a piece of jewelry, no matter what the cost, has a meaning separate from the precious gem involved. When the bride sees a ring she must have, what couple is going to engage in hard bargaining and careful scrutiny?

Emotions aside, jewelry is a particularly tricky purchase. I suspect that there is much more deception than the number of consumer complaints would suggest. The reason is that many people do not know they have been taken. According to a CBS News survey about 30% of 10 karat gold, for example, was less than 10 karats. Yet how many people are going to check. According to one estimate roughly 10% of diamonds have been enhanced and sold as quality stones. Yet only a well trained gemologist with the right equipment can tell the difference between an enhanced diamond and a natural stone. Numerous television reports have shown that unscrupulous jewelers may try to pass off lower quality gems as top of the line. Laboratory-created gems might be confused with naturally mined stones. Plus there are imitations as well.

I am sorry to rain on your parade, but there are many pitfalls involved with jewelry. The reason for this is that only an expert can accurately judge the value of a gem stone and only an experienced buyer can be certain that a gold chain with a gold clasp is the grade of gold the seller claims it to be.

However, when you do buy a genuine quality diamond ring or gold chain, you have bought an item that ought to hold its value for the time you own it. Naturally the price of all gems and precious metals will fluctuate with the market. Yet unlike most other products covered in this book, jewelry can keep an intrinsic value and could even be worth more in ten or twenty years. For example, a $1000 computer bought in 1990 has completely depreciated and is now virtually worthless. However, a $1000 necklace bought at the same time could still be worth about $1000 as long as it has been properly cleaned and maintained.

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Part of the art of using the Internet is knowing how to search. This is true whether you are using a sophisticated search engine such as or a site specific search engine that will search only that site and may not have as many features.

A good rule of thumb is to list several specific words that you want on the pages brought up by the search. It also helps if you put the most important words first, then the next most important, and so on. While it won't be a great English sentence, it will be in a form that a computer search engine can understand.

Let's say I want to find the "specifications" or "spec sheet" for a Sony camera. Please see the Introduction for a full description of what "specifications" means. On these specifications I will find a list of the technical capabilities of a Sony camera.

For example, if I only look for just the word "Sony" it would bring up thousands of sites that sell Sony products. If I now look for the words "digital camera Sony," it will bring up fewer sites, but again Sony is sold by lots of retailers and has lots of digital cameras. Now suppose I add the model number: "digital camera Sony CD1000" it will limit the search to just that camera, but again many listings of stores that carry that model. Finally if I type in the words: "digital camera Sony CD1000 specifications" it will take me directly to a site with the specifications for that camera.

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If an electronic item:
Is it sent in the original box as shipped by the manufacturer?
Are all accessories included as specified by the manufacturer?
Is it gray market?
Does it come with a full normal warranty good in the USA?

In stock?:
If not when will it be in stock?

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Penguin Putnam Publisher of Book
Reference = Savvy Discounts,
Author = Richard deGaris Doble

Phillips Exeter Academy
1962 — Rick Doble (alumnus) author: Savvy Discounts

Wake County, North Carolina
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