Ever since my wife, Jude, found out that Target regularly drops off brand new items at our local Goodwill Store, she has gotten in the habit of shopping there. On a recent visit, she was surprised to find new LEGO sets for 60 percent off the original retail price, so she stocked up on what will be several birthday and Christmas gifts this year for our LEGO-loving sons and nephew.
That got me thinking about the best deals I’ve ever gotten, and three immediately came to mind.
The Health Club That Never Costs More
First was my Bally’s health club membership that I signed up for when I was in my mid 20s. While I had to pay an initiation fee of a couple hundred dollars, the annual fee from that point on was fixed at $60. I’m sure health clubs assume most people will quit after just a short time, so they make their money on the initiation fee. But I’ve kept the membership, and at $60 a year, it’s a bargain. While I prefer to run outside, we live in Chicago, so I go to the club in the winter to run on its treadmills. Even though I use the club just four months a year, it’s still well worth the price.
Lesson learned? If something comes with an upfront fee, make sure you’re planning to stick with it for the long haul.
The Boots That Never Wear Out
Second on my list is Timberland boots. I’ve had two pair for over 10 years. They’ve held up amazingly well and their timeless style makes them still look just fine. One pair is heavy duty, which I wear to shovel our driveway in the winter and trudge through the worst weather conditions. The other is more of a traditional pair of hiking boots that I wear more often.
Lesson learned? Don’t go for the cheapest product available; buy quality products when they’re on sale, and whenever possible, go for styles that are not likely to look out of date next year.
The Car That Never Goes Out of Warranty
The third deal that came to mind was a Honda Accord I bought before Jude and I met. Honda had a great reputation, and that car showed me why. It was amazingly reliable and inexpensive to maintain. By the time Jude and I started dating, it had over 100,000 miles on it.
While the car had been great mechanically, I remember feeling a little embarrassed at the fact that the paint on the roof and hood was starting to fade, so I went to a few paint shops to find out what it would cost to touch it up. One of the shop owners surprised me by recommending that I contact Honda to see if the company would cover the cost because the paint seemed to have been defective. I thought there would be little chance of that since the car was so old and had so many miles on it, but sure enough, Honda took responsibility and paid the full price to have the roof and hood repainted.
Lesson learned? One of the best ways to choose a vehicle is to find out what other people think of the cars or trucks they own. Consumer Reports issues an annual reliability survey based on the feedback of over a million vehicle owners. While you’ll find a lot of free information on Consumer Reports’ web site, I’ve also found our annual online subscription to be a good deal at $26.
What are some of the best deals you’ve ever gotten and what were the lessons learned? Let me know by leaving a comment below. On a future post, we’ll look at the worst deals ever.
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