As someone raised on flea markets and thrift stores, I never really stopped to ask myself: Why is being a savvy shopper so rewarding? I took it for granted that good deals were something that could be found most anywhere, by anyone. I lived much of my life blissfully unaware that there are those walking among us who are willing pay full retail prices … (insert dramatic swell of music and scream emoji here).
Granted, there are some things that always seem to be on sale (ahem, J. Crew, ahem) others that never go on sale, and still others (like a car) for which bargaining is only going to get you so far. But there’s another category of things where we often don’t think about looking for deals — and we’re overpaying as a result. Here are five potential bargains hiding in unexpected places.
Home improvements and renovations
When starting a home improvement project, people often approach it like they do a car repair — they don’t know what the quote means, they accept the first offer and they go with the first person they find. That’s a big mistake, explains Lauren Makk, Home Expert at Yelp.
“When you first start a home improvement project, you should have a really clear idea of what you want the renovation to do,” Makk says. You’ll want to identify what kind of materials you really want — and how much these materials will cost. For example, there will be a big difference in price between hardwood and linoleum flooring, and you’ll need to know exactly what you want before you meet with a contractor and go about comparing quotes. “Having someone in your home can be stressful but being clear on your and their expectations and timelines upfront can ease tension [and budget] as you undertake a project,” Makk says.
Stem cells — collection and preservation
A bargain on stem cells, really? Absolutely, says Steven Clausnitzer, CEO of Forever Labs, a stem cell collection and preservation company. As more individuals have turned to stem cells for treatment options for cancer, and to regenerate damaged tissues, many stem cell companies have sprung onto the marketplace, but they’re not all created equally.
“In this industry, it can be difficult to compare prices — some companies are intentionally making it difficult to compare, but it’s an area where people can save thousands if they do their homework,” Clausnitzer says. Some companies may charge a small upfront fee when they collect the cells, but then you’ll be hit with a hefty annual or monthly fee to store the cells over time. Additionally, some stem cell collection companies charge per appointment, while others charge a single fee for everything.
“You have to look at the total cost, including the fee for the doctor doing the procedure, the appointments leading up to the procedure and the fee for the storage over time,” he says.
Many shoppers don’t searching for bargains on mattresses because they think items like these are “untouchables”– only available through key brands or stores — and in general, consumers trust those prices, explains Maya Slomovich, growth manager at Earny, a “virtual assistant” helps you get money back on products when a price drops. “But in fact this is not true. We see unassuming items fluctuate in price all the time across big-box retailers.” Slomovich says some mattress brands regularly fluctuate in price by hundreds of dollars. Specialty brands see similar fluctuations. In the last year, Earny has tracked $200 price drops on Casper brand and $500 price drops on Tuft & Needle. So when do these bargains generally happen? Right after the holiday season — in January — is when Earny sees the biggest price drops.
Savings accounts, checking accounts and CDs
As long as you stay with federally insured banks and credit unions with deposit amounts under the insured limits, there’s no added risk with choosing a bank or credit union offering a higher rate, says Ken Tumin, creator of rate comparison site DepositAccounts.com. So why don’t more people look around? Time. “It can take some work, especially in finding the institution and moving your money.” But it can be worth it. If you maintain a $5,000 balance in your deposit accounts, an extra 2 percentage points equals an extra $100 a year. The internet is the easiest source of comparison, and you’re already there, so you can start looking around now! In addition to DepositAccounts, sites including MyBankTracker, RateCatcher and Bankrate can make the process a breeze.
People who think that mortgages are “one size fits all” would be mistaken, says Mat Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage. Too many people feel that mortgages are a commodity: “I put in my credit score and income, I find the lowest rate, and I pick that one,” he says. But mortgages have evolved just like tech has evolve. “It’s crazy for people to not take the extra time to investigate the best deal on a mortgage.” he says. “Just because your bank is the place that keeps your money doesn’t mean they are the best ones to give you your money.” And don’t just compare interest rate — shop for the cheapest closing costs, too.