Step 1: Make a plan
Decide how much you can afford to spend on this purchase. Is it an investment in your education or your business that could provide a return down the road? Is it something you really need to get by, such as transportation? Or do you just want it really bad? Knowing why you’re making the Big Buy can help you figure out what it’s worth—and that can keep you from getting sucked into a slick sales pitch down the road.
Step 2: Smarten up
Learn all you can about the item. Do research online. Talk to people who have purchased the same thing. Go to the library and look through old issues of Consumer Reports. With all the information that’s out there, there’s no excuse to pay too much or get less than what you really want.
Step 3: Get the dough
For a big purchase such as a car or a computer, you might want to get a loan. Again, shop around to get the best rate. Same goes for insurance—you can save a lot by comparing different offers. If you’re not financing the purchase (and avoiding debt is usually smart), save up. Set up an automatic withdrawal to an interest-bearing checking account at your bank or credit union.