If your finances are still in reasonable shape, now could be the time to take advantage of some recession bargains. In this, the second of four posts, the folks from Consumer Reports Money Adviser recommend products and services that are great buys now, along with strategies that will help you save the most. But before you shop, heed another lesson the recession has taught us: Charge only if you know you can pay the bill right away.
Prices have dropped by an average of $200 in three years, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.
Look for seasonal sales. Discounts on older models can be found when new cameras hit the market during two periods, March through May and September through November.
Watch out for refurbs. Too-good- to-be-true offers are often for refurbished cameras that may not have warranties.
Don’t go pixel crazy. No matter what the salesperson says, a 6-megapixel camera should be fine for most users. Click here for more digital camera buying advice from Consumer Reports.
Low mortgage rates and major price cuts have made housing more affordable than it’s been in 40 years. First-time homebuyers (defined as someone who has not owned a home for the past three years) might also benefit from the $8,000 tax credit the stimulus package put into place. To qualify for the best mortgage rates, you’ll need a stellar credit score, a sizable down payment, and a secure job.
Factor in other costs. Before you make an offer, find out from the current homeowners how much they pay for taxes and utilities.
Expect the unexpected. Make your offer contingent on a satisfactory inspection. That will give you leverage to subtract repair costs from the price.
Do some digging for the best rates. Check several lenders, including commercial banks, mortgage companies, and credit unions. Ask each to estimate what you’ll pay over the life of the mortgage for the same amount, terms, and type of loan.
You’re likely to find plenty of incentives at local retailers. January sales of cooking appliances, refrigerators, and washers and dryers slipped between 20 percent and 30 percent from a year earlier, according to the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute.
Comparison shop carefully. Don’t assume that the first deal you see is the best one. And it’s worth trying to haggle an additional discount or free accessories or services.
Think energy savings. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 includes $300 million to pay for state-issued consumer rebate programs for Energy Star-qualified appliances. Many state and local governments and utilities also offer incentives for energy-efficient appliances. A list of programs is available from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.
Avoid delayed interest hits. No-interest deals typically require that you pay the total cost of the item by the end of a certain period. If you don’t, you’ll be charged interest from the date of purchase.
Click here for more appliance buying advice from Consumer Reports.