How to leverage price matches

Spend It Twice

by Rich Finzer

No doubt about it, I love spending money. That's how you get more stuff. What I'm not in love with is wasting money. Wasting money means you get less stuff. Less stuff bad, more stuff good. Recently, as I began buying items for a bathroom makeover, I learned how to leverage my money more effectively, by taking advantage of lowest price matching. I discovered this wonderful technique while trolling the aisles in the big orange and big blue home improvement stores. I figured out how to spend money twice. Twice? You can't spend the same money twice! That's not possible! But, "Ah yes my little kumquat," it is.

The big-box stores promise to match any competitor's price. If you find another retailer offering a lower price, those stores will not only match it, they will reduce theirs by 10%. Fat city. The catch is that you've got to perform the due diligence to find that lower price. Most likely those stores figure their average customer won't bother and most of the time they're probably right. But I'll wager that the folks reading this would consider it fiscal blasphemy not to find the lowest price. So here's what I did.

First, I visited the big-box retailers to peruse their bath accessories. When I found some I liked, I didn't buy them. Instead, I wrote down the item numbers and prices. Then I went home, fired up the Internet and Googled(tm) on "bathroom accessories." After that, it took me roughly 30 minutes to find the identical items selling for significantly less than the blue store charged. Then I printed my findings and took them with me when it was time to make my purchases. The savings were startling.

I reduced my total expenditure by over 33% compared to the big box prices. And that was just on the purchase of five items! As my total makeover budget is $4650, I stand to save a significant amount of money by the time I acquire everything. I probably won't find price matches on every item I plan to buy, although I certainly intend to look for them. But as it stands right now, I've got two extra portraits of Andrew Jackson in my wallet. The bottom line is this. Thirty minutes of net surfing yielded a savings of $40. To me, that's the equivalent of working for $80/hour.

To be honest, I would have bought the items anyway, and I've spent nearly $130 including the insidious sales tax. So to my way of thinking, I've got an extra $40 to spend a second time. That's what I mean by spending it twice.

One of the hidden costs buried in every purchase is sales tax. Unless you live in New Hampshire, whose residents are blissfully unencumbered by this levy, sales tax is another item you must budget for. Here in NY, sales tax averages between 8% to 9% depending on the county. Another way of stating this is to say that the government charges you for the "privilege" of buying. So, it's no small wonder then that the parking lots of the malls in New Hampshire are choked with cars bearing out-of-state plates. Apparently those folks do not consider themselves worthy of this "privilege." That's true humility if I've ever witnessed it!

My point is simply this. For every dollar you reduce an item's price by, there's corresponding reduction in the sales tax. And while it's only pennies per dollar, on purchases totaling several thousand dollars, the savings could be substantial. Best of all, this is not illegal. You are simply avoiding taxes. Tax avoidance is a subtle art. Tax evasion will eventually catch up with you. Remember, the Feds never convicted Al Capone for murder or bootlegging. Instead, they jailed him for tax evasion. Bottom line, the government is greedy, but they can't levy sales tax on money you didn't spend.

So what will I do with the money I didn't have to spend? Most likely, I'll splurge for a couple extras and still come in under budget. The rest I'll just hang onto. Money doesn't weigh much.

Take the Next Step:

  • Before buying anything from a big-box home improvement store, take the time to peruse the Internet to see if the price can be beaten.
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

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