Money saving tips: Purchasing electronic and white goods

As featured in FHM Magazine, July 2008

You've heard Bing Lee's tag line �"Everything's Negotiable", but in truth you'd probably get the same deal from �Harvey Norman, The Good Guys and your local electronic and white goods dealer - �you just have to be brash enough to ask for it.

Most of us feel more comfortable accepting �a price tag, either because haggling seems cheeky or we simply can't be �bothered, but bartering is still relevant on today's high street - as is �offering hard cash (as twentieth century as that may seem). You might think �that the larger brand stores are above seeing cash as more desirable than �credit, but if you can achieve an extra 10% off the price, it's worth a shot. Here's �an insider's tip: nearly all big brand stores work in a price shift of up to �20% to begin with. That is, many stores incorporate a means to negotiate (or �alternatively a means to make maximum profit, of course) before you even walk �in the store. Use it to your advantage.

A final strategy ("the low blow"): mention �a store's direct competitor. It may seem like you're steering the fight in a �dirty direction, but you may be surprised how quickly the seller comes round �when you mention the deal on offer elsewhere (try not to stretch the truth too �much in the pursuit of a few dollars off!). Just as car dealers have a "sticker �price" (the price plastered on the car window) and an "invoice price" (the �price they pay the manufacturer), electrical and white good dealers will also �have two markers they can float between (the "zone of possible agreement"). If �you dig deep to find out the invoice price of a product, and then aim between �this and the sticker price as a rule of thumb, you could hit on a much improved �deal. Bottom line: know your stuff. Do as much research as possible before �demanding a deal; the Internet is increasingly the best place to start.

Mobile phones: How do you research a better deal?

You need a mobile phone, you don't want to �get ripped off, but you're short of time - so how can you get to grips with the �erratic mobile market?

Limited time is a major reason that �research today is all about the Internet - but don't discount the benefits of �hitting the high street. Chatting to objective mobile phone providers, given �their detachment from mobile brand spin, can quickly bring your understanding �up to speed. You may even find useful information from mobile phone service networks �themselves, at the very least to compare what's available from each and then to �see to which of them is most flexible when it comes to getting you the better �deal. Sometimes, if you spell out what your budget is and what you expect from �a mobile phone service, a dealer will be willing to match you. This kind of �deal is much less likely via the Internet, even if exclusive deals are �generally better. The Net can be invaluable for getting the opinion of other �consumers in the same boat however.

If one thing's true about mobile phone �companies, they're not shy on advertising. You'll probably see more flyers and �catalogues for mobile phones than anything else, so competitive is the market. If �you don't get the hours online that you'd like, or you struggle to find time to �visit your local mobile shop - get creative. If you have a long commute on the �train or bus, grab a bunch of catalogues from phone companies and non-affiliated suppliers and sift through them instead of reading that book or �snoozing. Maybe take them into work and study them at lunchtime instead of �reading FHM (sorry!). Try to learn as much as you can about what's out there �and figure out what phone features suit you; the first way a salesman will know �he's onto a winner is if you don't know your 3G from your G String!

Cable TV: Where can you find the best deal?

Much like mobile phones and electrical �goods, the keyword with cable TV is research, research, research. Don't just �opt for the biggest brand because it's familiar, check out the competition to �find the best deal. As you probably have worked out, Foxtel is the alpha male �of Australia's cable world, but there are alternatives.

SelecTV offers competitive packages, �undercutting Optus' Foxtel service and offering a diverse range of channels �covering music, movies, news and sport. SelecTV caters for a more specialist �market also by offering additional channels in Spanish, Greek and Italian. �Optus' "Basic Plus" Foxtel package costs $54.95* per month including one �additional extra channel pack, but this doesn't allow selection of an �individual extra channel. Cable provider Austar, on the other hand, whilst �offering a slightly more expensive basic package, allows you to select �individual channel add-ons in some cases, such as World Movies for an �additional $6.95 or the History Channel for just an extra three bucks. Those �with quite specific needs might revel in this flexibility - and Austar's mini �installation fee (compared with Optus).

Generally speaking, Australia's cable TV �options are limited unfortunately. Channel line-up changes little from provider �to provider and the basic rule is much the same across the board: the more you �pay, you more channels (and variety) you get. Whichever provider you choose, �the overall service will probably vary little and in some cases the service �itself may not affect which provider you opt for; your choice might depend on �where you live as some providers operate only in select parts of the country.

There's not much room to move in the cable �market on Aussie shores currently, but if you're willing to divert from the "reassuring" �route (of Foxtel via Optus), you could be lucky enough to find more variety and �value budget packages elsewhere. The more time you spend looking for �alternatives, the more chance you have of watching what you want.

Property Purchasing: Agency fees

As an extra point, as with essential electronic purchases you can look out for savings when purchasing a property. If you're taking out a mortgage, you'll already have certain legal fees and insurance premiums (not mentioning moving costs and any urgent property repairs), so you need to cut costs wherever you can. You may opt to �enlist the services of a finance broker specialising in home loans. If this is �the case, be sure to get a clear outline of their fees for the whole service - �you don't want a nasty surprise when the bill hits.

Changes in the credit laws around ten years �ago have generally brought about a bit more protection for home buyers. Now the "Consumer �Credit Code" forces home loan providers to make information clear to �borrowers. For mortgage contracts, you should have full details about fees up �front (usually in the form of a "pre-contractual �statement"). Your simple checklist of info that should be included is:

    � �
  • the amount you're borrowing
  • � �
  • your rights and obligations
  • � �
  • the interest rate
  • � �
  • when interest is charged
  • � �
  • fees and how they're calculated
  • � �
  • how the provider will inform you of � � � changes (to fees or rates).

When it comes to a �mortgage contract, you don't have to sign anything on the spot and you should �always be sure you understand what you're signing. It sounds like common sense, �but under pressure it's not uncommon to forget this rule of thumb.

Bear in mind you'll �already be paying state and government fees (stamp duty, mortgage registration, �land transfer, council rates, water rates, etc), so you want to minimise extra �"on top" costs. Valuation fees, "establishment" fees, legal fees, exit fees �(should you wish to transfer your loan), and ongoing servicing fees should all �be taken into consideration. Be sure to check with your lender what fees will �apply before undertaking any loan.

* At time of going to press.

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