How to Get the Best Price on Anything

I’m enjoying a cup of tea while the sun warms my face. I just got a comfortable new office chair and desk. The desk is small, spartan, minimalist, everything I wanted. I set it up in front of a big window. Now I can lean on my desk, propping my chin on my palm, and stare out the window contemplating life. It’s the perfect setup for my home office. I can roll the chair around to grab my guitar, or a snack, or a beer, or to blast some tunes on the stereo. I got this this desk for free with the same technique I use to get the best price on anything.

The spot for reading, writing, and rocking.

Stop rushing to buy things

I remember when I graduated college and didn’t have much stuff. Over time I discovered items that I could use such as a bed frame and a sofa. I didn’t need these things to survive. But since they would improve my living condition, I decided the sooner I got them the better.

I got a buzz from visiting furniture stores, and scouring the internet for the best deals. Before I knew it, I had a brand new Ikea bed. It was a sleek and solid bed frame – I still use it today. But I also paid retail price for it.

With the sofa, I took some more time. Several weeks went by as I looked on Craigslist for something used. A of couple months later I found a leather set for $500. It was a quarter of the price I’d seen at stores, and was in excellent condition. I jumped on the opportunity.

If you want to get the best price on anything, wait for it

These days, there’s no way I could fit all my possessions into the back of my car. We’ve actually been working towards becoming more minimalist by donating loads of our stuff. It feels great to be unhindered by possessions. If I don’t buy something right away, I often realize a few days later that I don’t really need it. But as life changes, I still discover things that can improve on my life.

When I quit my job I took up writing this blog as one of my new hobbies. I didn’t have a desk, and decided it would be nice to have one for writing. Maybe I’d put it in front of our big window so I could type away while enjoying a view of the outdoors. This would probably also compel me to spend more time outdoors and less time writing which would be OK too. But having a desk wasn’t urgent, I could still write from the comfort of the sofa or sit at the kitchen table with my laptop.

Instead of making the desk acquisition one of my top priorities, I let the idea simmer in the back of my mind. I never looked for one actively, but I had something to keep an eye out for.

The best deals find you

Last weekend, I was back in PA visiting family and friends. My mom, who also retired recently, is getting ready to downsize. I was helping her start to clear out the old house. As we were taking out some books to donate, we uncovered a desk. As luck would have it, it was exactly what I needed and something my mom was getting rid of. It took half a year, but a free desk came my way. It even came with a nice chair.

The best prices are rare and fleeting

Over time, all prices return to a mean. Good deals come along rarely, and when they do, they are picked up quickly.

I’ve had some incredible deals over the years. A lot of the times, they’re items on Craigslist, or at yard sales, or free on the side of the road, or free from helping friends and family move. Whether it’s buying a house, a car, a desk, or airfare, if you want to get the best best price on anything you need to be patient and ready, because the best deals pop up unexpectedly.

I causally searched for months before we bought our $5,000 Prius.

When looking for my first home, I was on a schedule. I rushed things, and consequently paid retail price. While I made it work financially by having roommates, it was far from a home run.

Years later, when Mrs. CK and I contemplated moving, we decided it would only happen if the right deal presented itself. By being patient, we narrowly avoided some bad deals. A year later, our patience payed off – a neighbor let us know they were foreclosing. An incredible opportunity popped up and smacked us in the face. We picked up the house through a short sale, and should be able to sell at a profit even in a bad market.

Why you don’t get the best price on anything

When you go out and buy stuff right away, you are throwing away the opportunity get the best price on anything. I could have driven to Ikea and purchased a desk and chair the first day I started writing at home. Not only would I have paid retail price for the desk, but I would have robbed myself of the opportunity to get a free one at a later time.

Next time you decide you want to buy something, relax. Keep enjoying life as you take your time looking. You will not only save yourself the anxiety of chasing crappy deals, but you’ll remain open to opportunities you might not expect. Good deals come and go. If you want to get the best price on anything, you need to be waiting and ready when the opportunity comes your way.

35 thoughts on “How to Get the Best Price on Anything

  1. I agree. You usually will pay a premium if you need something *right this minute*. I would also add to create opportunities for yourself to find things. I often stroll through thrift stores for any nice-to-have items. If they don’t have what I’m looking for, I leave empty-handed. But it’s so much freakin’ fun–it’s like a scavenger hunt over the course of a few weeks or months. But that does mean I pay .50 for very nice work pants instead of $50.

  2. Great advice, Mr. CC. Patience gives the buyer the upper hand. I’ve walked away from some deals that were good to begin with only to get a better deal later on. And I’ve also led impatience get the best of me at times.

    In reality, most stuff isn’t that important, but marketing makes us FEEL that it is, which leads us to make poor decisions in haste.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Marketers and salespeople want you to buy while you are high on the buzz of getting something new. They know that if you take your time, you will either find a better deal or realize you don’t need their product.

      Great comment πŸ™‚

  3. Love it, Mr. CK. We do this all the time. Patience really does pay off. My daughter needed (wanted) a desk chair (she was using a dining chair at her desk). We told her we’d look around. Within a couple of months, my mom uncovered an amazing desk chair at her office in the storage room. She asked if she could take it and they said yes. So, now my daughter has a great desk chair we got for FREE.

    Waiting almost always pays off in one way or another. In fact, sometimes, we realize we don’t need the item at after all.

  4. Isn’t that what the old folks used to call bargain hunters and trash to treasure hunters? I remember a story of a gentleman in New York who trash picked, fixed and sold items. When he died he left the city $3 million.

  5. I love the idea of avoiding immediate, impulse purchases. The Minimalists actually talk about the beauty of this technique quite a bit – the idea being that the longer you wait to buy something the more accurately you can determine if you need that thing in your life or not. If you can go an extended period of time without purchasing it, you might not need it at all!

  6. Being a minimalist, I have to think for awhile about purchases. I try to see if I can accomplish the objective without purchasing something. I look at all options. Figure out how much value it will provide, etc… However, it is rare that I really feel that I ‘need’ to purchase anything, so it is not like I have to make these decisions often. πŸ™‚

    • These days I also think very hard about not only price, but also do I want to bring another item into the house. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of possessions over the last year. It’s been nice having the open space and a clear mind.

      The desk is one of the rare acquisitions we’ve made. The price was right, and I’m getting some use out of it right now πŸ˜‰

  7. I agree 100 percent. To take it a step further things like movies, the hottest toy or electrical gadget, etc. if you buy when they first come out most times you will pay more. If you can wait a year to see that new movie it’ll probably be free on Netflix rather then ten dollars at the theater. Also it will allow you time to determine if you really want or need something.

    • Yep, all the latest movies, electronics, and toys from the past are on sale in the future. I haven’t been to a movie theater in a decade, but since I never see anything in the theater, everything on Netflix is new to me πŸ™‚

  8. Absolutely! I’ve been wondering how I spend so much on ‘stuff’ now and didn’t when I was younger. I still have the same amount of stuff but somehow the costs have gone up.

    Lightbulb moment – when I was younger I would decide I wanted something and put $5 a week towards it until I got it. Sometimes I bought it ‘early’ because a great deal popped up, other times I would end up getting it for significantly less than originally planned.

    It’s not exactly a sexy or exciting scheme, but ‘waiting’ turns out to be the best way to great discounts.

    • Yeah, great observation! Lifestyle inflation crept up on me the same way when I got a new job. With a good paycheck coming in I didn’t have to wait to buy stuff. And I ended up buying a bunch of junk. While there’s nothing fancy about it, waiting makes a big difference in spending levels πŸ™‚

      • I wouldn’t have called it Lifestyle Inflation until recently when I paid a bit more attention to it. I’d always viewed Lifestyle Inflation as fancier, nicer things. Turns out that it can also include the immediate getting of things.

        I’ve been having this brainwave for the last few days, and have my own blog post in draft for this. I’m always amazed by how the FIRE community seems to gravitate towards the same topics at the same time. Like a massive hive mind πŸ˜€

  9. Very true. For expensive items, I typically wait to buy until the next model comes out and the “old” one is discounted. I’ve been wanting to buy a new set of golf clubs for a while. But rather than rush out and buy an expensive set, I waited. Then I found out that one of our customers is a master club maker. He said he has a set of slightly used clubs that are still in good shape but would be much cheaper. It definitely pays to wait and see what’s out there.

  10. Good points you and others above bring up. Many times I’ve put off buying something due to being busy or my own procrastination. I then realized it probably wasnt that important or maybe I didnt really need it at all. And like you mention, buying something can just add more clutter to your house if you arent sure you’ll use it that much. Right now im going through my whole house trying to clean out years of stuff and its a real job. Doing your research, knowing prices, and waiting for the right deal can really pay off. I try to stack promo codes/ coupons, cash back sites, and credit card deals. Also, I’ve found some good prices on Amazon warehouse deals for “Like New” items that were probably customer returns.

    • It’s crazy how much stuff piles up over the years. We keep coming up with more and more bags of stuff to give away.

      Taking time to gather coupons or points from credit cards is another great way to get awesome deals. We booked our all inclusive trip to Jamaica using only credit card sign up bonuses πŸ™‚

  11. I’ve found that this has become easier as I’ve grown older. I used to find it really hard to delay gratification when I was younger. If I wanted something I wanted it right this minute. I don’t think I’ve grown into a better person. I think I’m simultaneously busier and lazier. I either have demands on my time that are more urgent than shopping or I have precious free time and I’d rather work on my blog or read or nap.
    Regardless of the reason, delaying gratification is definitely easier on the wallet.

  12. For frugal folks another great part of scoring something for free or at a great price is the long tailwind glow of an awesome deal. I’m not sure I ever lose that enjoyment (do they call that Buyer’s Satisfaction?).

    • Excellent observation! You bring up another good point, when you get a good deal you get a sense of satisfaction. If you rush things and get a mediocre deal, you could end up paying just to feel some buyer remorse.

      I’m all about the buyer’s satisfaction πŸ™‚

  13. The problem is we usually don’t buy stuff until we need them. I really should make a list of things we need to replace soon. That way we can take our time with replacement purchases. We’re putting off all purchases until we move in a year or two, though.

    • It definitely helps to plan ahead. These days we are usually pretty flexible on our acquisitions. Things like the desk, I can manage without until something good comes up. Good idea on holding off on new purchases until you move into a new place πŸ™‚

  14. I wonder what you think about the flip side of this equation. Waiting= deferred gratification plus best price on everything.

    However, the equation I am trying to solve is, something needed in the future= crazy good sale today.

    For example, for school we thought we would need an IPAD for our kids for next year. However, on black Friday, had IPAD air 2’s on sale for $400, or $150 off. Wife asked if we should buy one, and my normal frugal self said yes. I just cringed at the thought of having to buy one next year for $550, so we bought one early instead.

    • Hard for me to judge what the situation is with your kids needing the IPAD, but I’ll share my own experience.

      There was a time when I would buy a new shirt of sneakers because they were on sale for an excellent price and I would “need” it in the future. I ended up with some shirts that never used, and donated new. There are always sales, and marketers like to play on our emotions of scarcity – better get it while you can. Now, I try not to buy stuff I might need in the future just because it’s a good deal πŸ™‚

      Looks like IPADs are on sale for $400 now too πŸ™‚

  15. I agree. I think all decisions should be thought about carefully, financial or otherwise. So many people give away decent things for free or at tiny prices, it’s always worth biding your time.
    We don’t have a dining set, and recently my friend asked if we wanted her Uncle’s old set, as he was getting a new one, and that they would deliver it to us for free too.

  16. Pingback: The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Reliable Car for Less Than $5k - Mr Crazy KicksMr Crazy Kicks

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