Smartphone – Your Personal Finance Pro http://yourpfpro.com Personal Finance for Young Professionals Thu, 18 Jan 2018 17:48:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 31591919 4 Tips for Brick and Mortar/Online Comparison Shopping http://yourpfpro.com/4-tips-for-brick-and-mortaronline-comparison-shopping/ http://yourpfpro.com/4-tips-for-brick-and-mortaronline-comparison-shopping/#comments Tue, 13 Aug 2013 19:54:42 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=2701 If you’re like me, then you always compare prices in store to the prices online.  I do most of my shopping on Amazon but now that they charge sales tax, a lot of the brick and mortar businesses are starting to compete price-wise again.  There’s a lot of competition out there between retailers which is […]

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4 Tips for Brick and Mortar:Online Comparison ShoppingIf you’re like me, then you always compare prices in store to the prices online.  I do most of my shopping on Amazon but now that they charge sales tax, a lot of the brick and mortar businesses are starting to compete price-wise again.  There’s a lot of competition out there between retailers which is definitely a good thing for us, the consumers.  Any time you have multiple retailers fighting for your business, you know that prices will be driven down, you just have to know where to look.

I just helped my fiancee buy an Apple Macbook Air and the best price we found was through Best Buy.  We still made sure to do our due diligence and research all the various options online to see what was out there but none of them could beat Best Buy’s price.  It also helped that I had a couple hundred dollars in reward zone certificates and a bunch of 10% off Best Buy gift cards, but their sale price was still lower than the Apple website.

Here are my 4 tips for brick and mortar and online shopping:

1.  Check Reviews First

Before I make a purchase, I always check reviews on the product first.  Amazon is a great source for reviews since they have nearly every product available and you don’t have to buy the item to see the review.  The only problem with their system is that not all reviews are from verified buyers so there could be potential for abuse there.

2.  Don’t Be Afraid of Used

People tend to get caught up with having new things all the time.  Personally, I don’t care as long as it’s a solid product.  Things like looks and ‘shiny-ness’ are secondary to how the product actually performs.  There are some awesome deals to be had on used or even refurbished items on sites like eBay or Craigslist.  Obviously you’re taking a little more risk buying used but certain things like furniture have little to no risk at all.  You can test them out and if they work well and look good, there’s not much that’s going to change once you take it home.

You’ll often find a 30-50% mark down on a very good or like new item for sale on Craigslist/eBay compared to the retail price.

3.  Use Technology

I use the Amazon and eBay smartphone app to scan barcodes when I’m in store to compare prices.  That way, I know if I’m getting a good deal or if it might make sense to wait and buy the product later online.  I just used it today in fact at the drugstore since I needed some contact solution.  The price was $12.50 at CVS so I scanned it with my Amazon app and found it for $7.50 online.  It only took about 30 seconds and saved me $5.

4.  More Expensive Doesn’t Always Mean It’s the Best

Do you know anyone that has an obsession with buying the most expensive item since it has to be the best?  I know people like that and I tend to disagree with this principal big time.  Although there are a lot of expensive and nice products, you can nearly always find others on flash sale sites like hushhush that are less money and of similar quality.  Don’t assume that expensive means it’s a good product.

Readers, what tools do you use for comparison shopping?  Have you noticed that brick and mortar stores are starting to match the prices of online retailers more frequently(I sure have)?

– Harry @ PF Pro

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Comparison Shopping Online Before You Buy In-Store http://yourpfpro.com/comparison-shopping-online-before-you-buy-in-store/ http://yourpfpro.com/comparison-shopping-online-before-you-buy-in-store/#comments Mon, 13 May 2013 01:20:23 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=2160 If you do most of your shopping online like me, you’ll know that certain items were not made to be sold on the internet.  I rarely buy things like dress shirts and pants online since it’s so tough to tell what type of cut a shirt is or how well a pair of pants will […]

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comparison_shopping_online_before_you_buy_in_storeIf you do most of your shopping online like me, you’ll know that certain items were not made to be sold on the internet.  I rarely buy things like dress shirts and pants online since it’s so tough to tell what type of cut a shirt is or how well a pair of pants will fit.  Even though Amazon now charges tax in CA, I still buy a lot of items there because of their low prices, free 2 day shipping and awesome customer service/return policy.

When I do have to go in store to shop though, I always make sure to compare prices online since once I’ve found what I want there’s no need to pay the higher price.  Let’s say I walk into a Banana Republic on a Saturday and pick out a pair of pants that I want.  The first thing I’ll do is go online on my phone and see if the price is the same on the website.  Often times, companies may have different pricing in-store compared to their website for the exact same product.

Mobile Comparison Shopping

One great use of my smartphone is for comparing prices when I’m out shopping.  I use the ebay and Amazon mobile apps to scan barcodes of products that I’m looking at in-store and then compare them to the prices online.  That way, I know that I’m comparing apples to apples since you can easily make a mistake otherwise.  Alternatively, you can also use the unique item code and search for that if the barcode method doesn’t yield the results you’re looking for.

Online Coupons are Easy to Find

If I decide that I want to buy the item online, I always end up searching for online vouchers.  The last item I bought online was a digital camera, so in this case, I did a quick google search for ‘Canon Rebel Online Coupon’ to see if anything came up.  I ended up using a coupon code that let me save over 40% on digital cameras.  A lot of times you should be able to find a coupon code and although it might not always save you 40%, you could easily get a 10-20% in savings for one google search’s worth of work.

Always Free Shipping

The great thing about shopping online is that all these companies are competing for your business.  Most of them will either offer free shipping straight up or with a minimum purchase.  Most companies set the free shipping threshold at $50 or $100 but return shipping is usually free so there’s no risk.  You can probably even return the item in-store too if that’s more convenient for you.  So even if I only want one shirt, I might buy it in another color just to see if I like that one better and so that I’ll reach the minimum threshold for free shipping.

Coming home from work to a box of new clothes or new shoes is a great feeling.  Online shopping can get addicting since it’s so easy and hassle-free so make sure you don’t get too carried away.  Even if it is online, it’s still real money.

Readers, do you ever get carried away online shopping?  What type of items do you buy in store and what do you buy online?

-Harry @ PF Pro

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Upgrading Your Smartphone: My Switch From the iPhone 4 to the Samsung Galaxy S3 http://yourpfpro.com/upgrading-your-smartphone-my-switch-from-the-iphone-4-to-the-samsung-galaxy-s3/ http://yourpfpro.com/upgrading-your-smartphone-my-switch-from-the-iphone-4-to-the-samsung-galaxy-s3/#comments Sun, 07 Oct 2012 23:09:31 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=1266 I’ve had an iPhone for the past four years, but the other day I finally decided to switch to the Android OS and get a Galaxy S3.  I was pretty disappointed with the iPhone 5 release, essentially the same phone as the iPhone 4, but slightly taller and skinnier.  So far, I really love my […]

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Iphone5_vs_Samsung_GalaxyS3I’ve had an iPhone for the past four years, but the other day I finally decided to switch to the Android OS and get a Galaxy S3.  I was pretty disappointed with the iPhone 5 release, essentially the same phone as the iPhone 4, but slightly taller and skinnier.  So far, I really love my S3, the Android operating system is much more customizable and the phone has a lot of cool widgets and functions.  Whether you decide on the new iPhone, the Galaxy S3 or some other smartphone, upgrading can be a pain(and expensive).  I’ll tell you how I got the best price with the least hassle.

I did a lot of comparison shopping and ended up buying my phone at Best Buy for $50 less than it would have cost me at the AT&T store.  When I first started shopping around, I never would have guessed that Best Buy would have the cheapest price!  But in the end, they gave me the best deal and helped me transfer over all of my contacts, music and photos for free.

Only $200 for a Smartphone?

Although the list price of most new smartphones is $200, the actual MSRP is close to $500-$600.   The reason why you only have to pay $200 is that the phone carrier(in this instance AT&T) will subsidize the difference.  Since you’re agreeing to stay with them for two more years when you upgrade, they take the $400 hit here to lock you in at $100/month for two more years.

Smartphones are pretty common these days, and although there are still some people still using flip phones, I think it’s only a matter of time before every phone is a smartphone.  Even if you don’t use it to browse the internet or go on Facebook, things like maps(driving directions) and e-mail are pretty invaluable.  It’s been about 4 years since I had to print out driving directions from Mapquest(is that site even still around?)  Now I can just look up my destination on my way out the door.

Where to Buy 

I, like most people, assumed that my carrier(AT&T) would have the lowest prices on this phone.  After all, they are the ones subsidizing the cost of the phone, and they have a direct relationship with the manufacturer.  But in reality, they actually had the highest prices.  If you’re looking for a new smartphone, make sure to compare prices with stores like Amazon Wireless, Best Buy, Costco, Target and Walmart.  I’m not sure why these stores have lower prices, but they always seem to beat the carrier’s prices.

I actually found the lowest price on Amazon Wireless, my phonewas only $120, but they wouldn’t allow me to keep my unlimited data plan.  When I called Amazon Wireless customer service, they told me that AT&T was not allowing anyone to upgrade without dropping their unlimited data plans to a standard 3 gb per month plan, through a third party vendor.  I didn’t run into this problem though at Best Buy so your results may vary.

$50 Taxes & a $36 Activation Fee, Huh?

Unfortunately, you are required to pay taxes on the full MSRP of the phone so instead of paying taxes on $200, I had to pay taxes on $550.  This seems a little shady to me, but there’s not much you can do about it.  If you live in a state where Amazon doesn’t charge sales tax, you should be able to upgrade your phone through them and avoid this tax.

The other PITA charge is the $36 activation fee.  Now this one really pisses me off, but again, there’s not a whole lot you can do.  I don’t know why AT&T doesn’t just charge more for the phone, and not hit us with this back-end fee.  How hard can it be to activate a phone?  You press a couple buttons, and the computers do the rest, I don’t see how on earth it could possibly cost this much.  It kind of reminds me of the fee ticketmaster charges you when you want to print out tickets, what the hell?

However, I did find one way around this fee.  If you work for a large company, chances are they have discount arrangements in place with the major cell carriers: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.  Most corporate discount plans will waive this activation fee and give you a discount of up to 25% on your bill.  My company actually offers a 25% discount and will waive activation fees on new phones.  Since I’m still on my family plan(and only paying $50/month for my smartphone), the bill is under my mom’s name but she also receives a similar discount through her employer so there were no activation fees.

I ended up buying my phone at Best Buy because they had the phone I wanted, in stock and at the lowest price.  The upgrade was relatively painless and I had my new smartphone ready to use within 45 minutes.  My final cost was $150 for the phone plus $50 in taxes.  I even saved an additional $20 by using my Amex card!

Readers, have you upgraded your smartphone recently?  Did you buy your phone straight from the manufacturer, the carrier or a third party store?  Is it worth it to upgrade?

-Harry @ PF Pro

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Amazon is Now Collecting Sales Tax in California http://yourpfpro.com/amazon-is-now-collecting-sales-tax-in-california/ http://yourpfpro.com/amazon-is-now-collecting-sales-tax-in-california/#comments Wed, 03 Oct 2012 05:48:11 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=1247 If you’ve been following this blog, you know how much I love a good deal.  So when I finally decided to upgrade my iPhone 4 to a Samsung Galaxy S3, I remembered a tip that Amazon wireless has no sales tax on smart phones.  If you’ve ever bought one of these suckers, you know how […]

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Amazon_Prime_Free_3_MonthsIf you’ve been following this blog, you know how much I love a good deal.  So when I finally decided to upgrade my iPhone 4 to a Samsung Galaxy S3, I remembered a tip that Amazon wireless has no sales tax on smart phones.  If you’ve ever bought one of these suckers, you know how outrageous the taxes can be.  When you buy the phone in store, the phone only costs $200(since the price is subsidized by the carrier), but you have to pay tax on the full price of the phone(over $500).  That’s over $50 in taxes, yikes!

So when I logged on to Amazon wireless to upgrade my phone, I was shocked to see $50+ in taxes when I tried to checkout.  Unfortunately, the free ride at Amazon is now over for me and many other California residents.  I’ve been saving over 8% on all my Amazon purchases for years but it looks like that’s finally coming to an end.  

On September 14th, Amazon started charging sales tax on all purchases in California.  If you live in a state with no sales tax, you’re still ok, but it’s only a matter of time before residents of all tax paying states will have to pay tax on Amazon purchases.  It’s expected that Amazon will generate over $100 million in tax revenue for local and state governments in California.  I’m not sure what California with do all that money, but I’m sure it will go to a good cause(not!).

Is Amazon Still Worth It?

So now I have to decide if it’s still worth it to do the majority of my shopping on Amazon.  With no sales tax and a recent slew of Amex promotions, I was getting close to 20% off all my purchases plus free 2 day shipping to my house.  There’s nothing like coming home to a giant box of paper towels.  But in all seriousness, I buy almost all of my non-perishable household items on Amazon.  I may be able to get comparable deals through extreme couponing or deal hunting but I like doing other things with my free time.

I know Costco offers a lot of the same items I used to buy on Amazon but I think my local Costco might be the busiest one in SoCal.  I can’t go during the week days because of work, and when I go in on weekends or after work it’s a freaking mad house.  I love those free samples but I think I’ve been spoiled for so long by Amazon, it’s going to be hard to go back and wait in those long lines.  Even though Amazon wasn’t always the cheapest, the convenience factor of ordering on Amazon was what I loved most.  Now that there is sales tax on Amazon I’ll have to pay even more and I’m not sure the convenience factor outweighs the cost.

There’s Still Amazon Prime

Now that the sales tax loop hole has been exposed, Amazon’s best feature has got to be their Prime Membership.  It offers free two day shipping on all Amazon items and unlimited streaming of thousands of tv shows and videos among other benefits.  If you are a student, you can actually get a free 6 month membership.  For everyone else, I’d recommend signing up for Amazon Mom, it gives you a free 3 month membership to Amazon Prime.

I’ll most likely use a combination of shopping on Amazon, Costco and at my local grocery stores for whatever I need.  You can still buy 3rd party items and not have to pay sales tax but not all of these items offer prime and some are used/like new condition.

Amazon still has some of the best customer service and return policies around though.  You can usually get a hold of a representative by phone or e-mail very quickly and they are very knowledgeable.  I’ve had some great experiences with their customer service staff and I really like their business model and how they treat their customers.

I think it will be a while before I discover what the price difference is that will make me get off my lazy butt and go out to the store to get whatever I need.  But until then, I still have my free 2 day shipping and a few Amazon gift cards left to spend 🙂

Readers, do you plan on spending more, less, or the same amount at Amazon now that there is sales tax?  Are there any other good options other than Costco?

-Harry @ PF Pro

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