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  • Writer's pictureLisa Lee Freeman

My 3-step system for spotting REAL deals

It's the cutest little summer backpack! I found it sitting in a clearance bin with a bunch of super-fancy bags marked down to $400, $800, and even $1,200. This little leather number was a mere $59.99, marked down from $235—a 74% discount!

But what’s a $59.99 bag really worth? The $235 "original price" sounded like a stretch to me—and I found similar bags from the same brand online for as little as $39.98. Marking up the "original price" is an old trick used by retailers to get the adrenaline pumping and make you think you're scoring a great bargain. So how do you know if you should jump at a "deal"?

Here’s my 3-step ACE system for avoiding bargain backfires and uncovering real bargains. Use it every time you're about to pounce on a deal:

  1. Act like it's not on sale. Imagine how you'd feel about the deal if that "sale" price was the regular price. Try to ignore the percentage markdown and the so-called original price. Does the item seem worth it for the price?

  2. Compare prices. Just a quick Google search on your smart phone will do. Can you find that item or something very similar for less? Also, try coupon apps like Coupon Sherpa and Retailmenot to make sure you've got all your bargain bases covered.

  3. Evaluate. Would you be upset a week from now if you didn't buy that thing? Is it going to cause financial pain, guilt, or anxiety—more important, is this something you'll be hiding from your significant other?

Still not sure? Put the item aside for an hour, or ask a salesperson to hold it for you, and then ACE it again.

I always use this 3-step process in discount stores, malls, and outlets before I head to the register. And it's saved me a ton of money, aggravation, and clutter!

So did I buy the backpack? YES! It passed the ACE test. I decided I needed a backpack for my summer travels and that the price was right. Amen!

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