Am I Losing It?

I'm seriously doubting my money saving skills.

Lately I've spent waaaay too much on clothes. Even a few years ago, I rarely went shopping. Sometime during law school, I somehow got interested in fashion and went shopping more often. Then I got interested in accessories. Now I'm interested in vintage clothes. Geez, what happened to the willpower I used to have, the restraint? What good is having the ability to buy cheap clothes if I shop too frequently? At least today I reminded myself of this fact and didn't go sample sale shopping in Downtown LA, so I suppose it's a good start.

Then there's this thing with the newest purchase for my apartment--a used refrigerator. The fridge my roommate and I currently use was acquired less than a year ago (you can read about our last fridge ordeal here, toward the end of the post). I knew it was old and might not last long when we bought it for $40, but I was hoping that it would last until I graduate. Well, that didn't happen. The fridge side is still cold, but our freezer doesn't freeze. Adding to that, our electricity bill have been spiking ever since we bought this fridge; it's so old that it eats power the way Hummers guzzle gas. Obviously, it's time to find a replacement while the fridge is still breathing.

My roommate generously spent her time tracking one down through Craig's List. $125 is not bad for a fridge that's supposedly just a couple years old--the seller said his friend, who owned the fridge for "a couple of years," gave it to him a year and a half ago. We went after a dinner get-together to take a look at the fridge. There were a few marks across the front of the fridge, but the inside was remarkably clean. There was even a packet of instruction booklets in the freezer (the fridge was powered off at the time). Since we wanted to make sure the fridge works before we buy it, the seller said he'd turn it on and we'll give final approval when we truck it home 2 days later. When we went to pick it up, the fridge was nice and cold. We paid the full $125, took off the shelves, and moved the fridge onto a truck. I went to get my car so that we can load the shelves in it. While I was off retrieving my vehicle (which has issues that I'll discuss in a future post), my roommate and the seller looked at the instruction booklet and found a receipt in it. As it turns out, the receipt was from 6 years ago--apparently, the seller's friend's "couple of years" was much more than that. My roommate and I were under the impression that the fridge was about 3 years old. By then, it was too late to renegotiate the price, as we already paid.

I'm not mad at the seller at all--if he really intended to lie to us about the age of the fridge, he wouldn't have left the receipt lying around. In fact, he wouldn't have provided any documentation. Instead, I was mad at myself--why did I not bargain at all? I had 2 chances, but I did nothing. I could have said that there are marks on the fridge, but I thought cosmetic concerns are irrelevant when the fridge was so clean and well-maintained. Even so, I could have given it a try, just to lower it by $5 or something. But when I found out about the age of the fridge, I was just furious--why didn't I read the documentation? It was so simple! Law school has really changed the way I think. Despite the fact that the fridge is clean and works great, I was angry that I didn't pick up on the receipt and therefore couldn't argue for a better price based on the depreciation of value over the 6 years.

Now that I'm more level-headed, I can see that the price is actually not bad. The fridge actually depreciated by about $70 per year, so it's not like we were grossly overcharged. The seller's location was close to home, so that saved time and money on gas. The fridge is clean, so I didn't have to spend forever cleaning it. Still, I have to learn to be a better negotiator. Do I really have to rely on flaws to get a better price? I think the answer is "no."

I definitely learned a lot out of this. Here are the few things that I can coherently articulate:

1) Don't shop for more expensive items when you're tired--fatigue broke me down. I wasn't alert enough to spot all the flaws. I was in no mood to negotiate; I just wanted to secure a fridge and go home. Car dealerships might use this strategy to wear bargainers down as well. When one of my friends was shopping for a car, a dealership subjected him to a multi-hour negotiatathon. My friend didn't buckle when the price and car weren't right. He left after all that. Big props to him for doing that.

2) Even if there are no flaws, try to negotiate anyway. I don't know why I didn't do it--was I embarassed? I really don't know. It wouldn't hurt to try with a reasonable dollar figure.

3) Read everything! I couldn't have possibly thought about it at the time, but now that I learned my lesson, I won't forget.

4) If you're buying a used refrigerator, get one that's a couple of years old. While it may be more expensive, you'll save in terms of headaches and the electricity bill in the long run.

Well, that will be all until at least 7 days later. I'm taking the MPRE next Friday. Now I have to go back to studying with a borrowed book (at least I didn't have to spend any more money on test prep). Stay out of the heat but enjoy Summer!

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