Monday, February 7, 2011

Teaching My Clients to Save Money

I pick up pennies from the sidewalk. I eat this week’s specials at the grocery store. I stockpile toilet paper when the multi-packs go on sale. And I surf the web for bargains on everything my clients want or need.

I don’t have much trouble convincing them that they can get used books for less than the price of new ones.  I send them to and in moments, they’ve saved half or more on the price of a new book.  If you are a book junky, like me, a computer can pay for itself in the price of used books alone.

But where I meet resistance is on the price of new electronics.  A client needed a new printer. We surfed the review pages and picked out a black and white laser printer that will do what she needs.  The price at a local office supply store is $150.  My client thought that was okay, but she wanted it delivered so she wouldn’t have to carry it over the icy sidewalks.  Not a problem. We found a free delivery coupon she could use.  

Then I showed her how to use and google’s shopping menu.  We found the same printer for $97 including shipping.  She was sure there was something wrong with the printer. It couldn’t be the same model. Maybe it was a rehab or a return or a different model entirely.  

She read the web page carefully.  It said nothing about open box, or rehab, or without warranty.  In fact the webpage said the item was new and in a sealed box with a 1 year warranty.  My client agreed to order that one – on the condition that I’ll deal with it if there is anything wrong with it.  I don’t donate my time easily, and I have years of experience with this particular vendor, so I agreed.  She didn’t understand how anybody could undersell the local office supply shop.

She doesn’t have trouble understanding sales in the newspaper ads. Or buying store label instead of brand name. As a teacher, she buys toys from the Dollar Shops that are just as much fun to play with as the ones from toy stores.

But the idea that the same item could cost different prices at different stores floored her.   It reminded me of my trip to Russia about 20 years ago, during which I had to explain over and over that prices vary from store to store.  And I had gifts for Russians that I’d gotten for boxtops.  A Mickey Mouse watch that had cost 6 film box tops.  A wiggle picture that had come inside a box of cereal.

Today it’s hard to find freebies like those. But there are plenty of other methods for saving money. You can put the webstore into a search engine followed by the word coupon and usually get a discount or free shipping.  You can look at consumer reviews of a type of item (printers, CD players, clothing) and find a brand you never heard of but that has good reviews and a lower price.  One client was amazed to find that if you buy a pack of 1000 CD envelopes, that the price is barely more than the price for 100.

There is no need to pay retail.

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