If your finances are still in reasonable shape, now could be the time to take advantage of some recession bargains. In this, the third 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.
You can still find clothing sales of 50 percent to 75 percent off, but they’re not as common as they were at the end of 2008. “Stores are not bringing in as much new merchandise due to slumping sales, so you’ll have to hunt for discounts,” says Gabriele Goldaper, a garment-industry consultant.
Shop sample sales online. You can find big discounts on designer duds on sample-sale Web sites like www.gilt.com, www.hautelook.com, and www.ruelala.com. For example, a men’s Marc Jacobs blazer that retailed for $358 sold on Rue La La for $89. A $420 silk chiffon Vera Wang dress went for $148 at Gilt Group.
Check out thrift shops. Prices at secondhand stores are 50 percent to 90 percent off retail. To find stores near you, go to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops site.
Two big carriers were offering major savings this spring. Most Verizon Wireless contract plans let you make unlimited calls free to 5 or 10 designated numbers on any network—on top of free calls to 80 million Verizon customers. Boost Mobile, a prepaid service that uses Sprint’s Nextel network, was charging just $50 per month for unlimited national calling, texting, and Web access.
Try prepaid. Trading in a contract plan that costs more than $50 a month for a prepaid phone can save you $120 to $1,080 in the first year.
Analyze your usage. Zero in on how many billable daytime/weekday minutes you use. You may be able to switch to a lower-priced plan with fewer minutes.
Bundle in extras. Text messaging can cost as much as 20 cents a message, more if you add multimedia attachments such as photos. Or you can pay as little as a penny per message with a monthly bundle.
Retailers haven’t moved much furniture recently. “Manufacturers are overloaded on inventory, which means retailers should be, too,” says Patricia Bowling, vice president of communications at the American Home Furnishings Alliance.
Conduct smart online searches. You can compare brand-name retailer prices by using the names of the manufacturer and model and the model number.
Check out closeout items. We found a $1,765 couch in a retailer’s clearance center for $999. The only flaw we saw was a tiny spot on one of the cushions.
Focus on quality. Bargain furniture won’t be such a bargain if it doesn’t hold up. Go to www.findyourfurniture.com for advice on how to check the workmanship on wood and upholstered pieces.