Save money on big-ticket purchases
If a penny saved is a penny earned, then saving on big purchases could be a mortgage payment earned. But how? With patience, research and a little negotiation, you can get better deals on the things you need (and want) most.
According to Consumer Reports, seasonal savings still exist despite the constant availability of sales online. In order to get the best deal on what you want, try using a savings calendar (Consumer Reports offers suggestions by month), making a list of features that you want in your intended purchase, tracking sales through email subscriptions to websites and using your patience in order to wait for the best deal.
Check brick-and-mortar store prices as well as online retailers’ pricing, look for coupons online and in fliers and newspapers, search manufacturers’ websites for rebates and see if your credit card company has any special deals with retailers. You may want to consider buying a refurbished or open-box item, and you might also be able to save money by picking up your online purchase in-store.
When shopping for a new car, know the absolute maximum you can spend, including tax, tag and title fees, and be prepared to walk away from anything too expensive. Find financing, if you need it, from a bank or credit union; you’ll often get better financing from sources other than the dealership. Check with your insurance provider to find out how the new car will affect your premiums and factor that into your pricing decision.
Plan to purchase at the end of the month, when salespeople are pushing to meet their monthly sales goals. Spend a few months comparison shopping online; email an online salesperson at several dealerships to develop a rapport and get quotes; then, see if the dealers will meet or beat the lowest quote. During this time, go for a test drive at any dealership with the car you want; you are not obligated to buy from a dealership just because you drove a car in their inventory. Buying last year’s model is another great option for reducing costs. Negotiate everything, including add-on features and even free maintenance.
If you plan to trade in your current car, do not let the salesperson or dealership know until you’ve agreed on the final price for the new vehicle. You can check your current car’s value online to have an idea of a fair trade-in value and how the trade-in will affect your monthly car payments. If you think the dealer isn’t giving you a fair price for your trade-in, remember you can sell it to any dealership or sell it yourself online.
Don’t buy an item you don’t want or need just because it’s on sale; $100 kept is better than $50 saved on something you don’t need. With all large purchases, knowing what you want, doing your research and being patient are the keys to getting what you want at a fair price.
Allison Goldberg writes and edits employee benefits-related materials for the Insurance and Financial Services Department of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.
Christmas in the Capital City
Kicking off the state’s celebrations is the Big Jingle Jubilee Holiday Parade at 3 p.m., Dec. 2. It will begin at Second Street and Broadway, follow Broadway to Capitol Avenue, then proceed down Capitol Avenue, bringing Santa Claus to the State Capitol just in time for the annual State Capitol Lighting Ceremony. Crowds will gather to watch Santa turn on the Capitol’s elaborate Christmas lights, then families will flow into the well-decorated Capitol Rotunda with their children for visits with St. Nick in Santa’s workshop upstairs. The event is free; bring your camera for pictures with Santa. On the South Lawn of the Capitol, see a life-size Nativity scene hand-carved from Arkansas catalpa wood.
That same weekend, Dec. 1-3, the Arkansas Craft Guild’s 39th Annual Christmas Showcase at the Statehouse Convention Center will feature hand-crafted work for sale from more than 100 artists. And that Sunday, Dec. 3, three museums downtown will hold their holiday open houses full of refreshments, caroling, re-enactments and contests: The Old State House Museum at 1-4 p.m.; Historic Arkansas Museum’s 50th Annual Christmas Frolic at 1-4 p.m.; and the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center at 2-5 p.m., featuring its annual sweet potato pie contest. A trolley will shuttle visitors between these three museums and the Governor’s Mansion, which is also hosting its open house from 1-4 p.m.
Downtown also is home to quite a few impressive Christmas trees, including the annually lit one made of green lights in the window of the Regions Bank building, seen for miles around, and the three-story tree at the center of the Capitol Rotunda. Christmas trees also tower in the Little Rock City Hall and Old State House Museum, visitable during business hours, and an elaborate display at the Capital Hotel delights visitors around the clock. New this year is what is planned to be an annual tradition, a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree outdoors at Second and Main streets.
Elsewhere in Little Rock, the Santa’s Wonderland at the Bass Pro Shops off Interstate 30 draws thousands of eager children each year for free photos with Santa through Christmas Eve. Arts organizations throughout the season will be sharing holiday concerts, two versions of the Nutcracker Ballet, plus a variety of Christmas productions. For more information, visit littlerock.com/events or arkansas.com/events. (To learn about past Christmases in Little Rock, read the Arkansas Scrapbook feature).
Santa photo by Jenny Boulden