I didn’t sign up for this! How Not Reading the Fine Print Cost my Family BIG
Years ago, long before I had the big family that I have now, I needed a car. And in my mind, my new car would be a far superior ride than my parent’s old station wagon, the old faux-wood grain paneled vehicle I had been driving myself to classes and my part-time job with. After all, I recently graduated from college and was just hired for my first grown-up job, hence the need for a more polished set of wheels to suit my new station in life. And with my more mature persona, off I went to the local auto dealership, with what I thought was a responsible list of criteria. I must have had a light above my head blinking with bright letters that spelled, ‘Sucker!’ because the salesman made a bee-line over to me and never left my side until I ended up signing my meager new ‘adult’ paycheck over to a way over-priced car who’s value was dwindling as quickly as my fragile bank account. I should have known better when I saw him hi-fiving his co-worker as I nervously pulled out of the parking lot, full of buyer’s remorse.
Fast forward fifteen years and four children later, and yes I drove that little sedan around until the wheels fell off and I mean one of the wheels literally unloosened itself and rolled down our street. When I could no longer squeeze one more car seat in our already over-filled passenger area, I finally succumbed to the idea of a new car.
My husband, full of hubris and condescension, shooed off my piteous pleas to accompany him, after all I wanted to share the lessons I had the hard way (mainly, about disregarding the fine print). But he brushed me aside and said this was ‘man’s business’ now. Needless to say, he returned home with a brand new minivan that came with every deluxe feature and then some; DVD screens for every occupant, leather iPod holder and a mini refrigerator. Yes, a refrigerator! I predictably blew up at him and demanded to see our monthly payments, which in hindsight I probably should have reviewed not directly after eating dinner. The multiple pages should have been the tipoff that he had probably not thought clearly about some long-term and unnecessary warranties. Needless to say, even ‘men’ can be finagled by someone who can charm and persuade. But we both agreed afterwards we would never again fall prey to slick sales tactics and impulse purchases.
If this sounds like anything you and your significant other may have also experienced, then here are a few tips below to keep your budget safe and best of all, not taken advantage of.
Bring a Third party: If you’ve got a pair of consumers who are eager to investigate a new purchase, then having someone along who is not financially and emotionally invested in the item is a good way to dampened those raging shopping fires. Even though you love that sporty two-seater convertible, they can help remind you about those other passengers you need to think about; namely your four children.
Read the Fine Print: Yes, when you see something super tiny, you need to make the association about really scrutinizing it, word for word. Whether it’s a seemingly great sale, reread and make sure it’s not a gimmick to lock you into something longer term. Yes, that new cable service sounds amazing, what’s not so amazing? Two months after they signed you up they raised your monthly bill by 150%. Yikes! You don’t want to be stuck paying for something that you never intended to purchase in the first place.
Budget: This means stick to that bottom line. If you are not willing to pay a dime over what you budgeted for that new entertainment system, then you need to have the ability to walk away. This will show that sales staff you mean business and if you stick with your guns and your means, you could end up getting your new purchase even below that bottom line.
Patience: You know that saying, “Marry in haste, repent in leisure” well, just substitute with “Buying in haste” as this would be equally truthful. If it doesn’t feel right, wait. If it is meant to be then, it will still be available when you and your conscience are ready to pay. There is nothing as bad as seeing that newly purchased item and feeling horribly guilty, or worse yet, feeling so regretful you can even enjoy it.
Well, there you go. Read the fine print, stick to your budget and be patient. Who doesn’t love going shopping and returning home with your newly acquired treasures? But there is even more to love when you leave with a few extra dollars in your pocket.