-- intro: Pretty much anyone can go to a store to try on clothes or drive to an auto dealer to test drive a car — trying things out is a routine part of making purchases. It's just not that enjoyable. Sometimes, trying things out is a hassle or isn't enough to help you make a confident buying decision, but most people accept it as one of life's little annoyances.
From filling out your wardrobe to deciding on big-ticket purchases, there are more and more options for consumers to conveniently and confidently spend money. Here are some examples of things that don't have to be terrible to shop for, thanks to some creative business people.
quicklist: title: Cars text:
Many car rental companies sell their vehicles to consumers, and renting the same make and model you're considering buying is a good strategy for finding out if you really like it — it'll give you a bit more time the familiarize yourself with the vehicle than a traditional test drive.
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Hertz has a program — called Rent2Buy, available in some parts of the country — that allows you to purchase the exact car you rent. You pick up the car for a three-day trial period, and if you decide to not buy it, you just pay for the rental expense.
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As we previously reported, Airbnb started a program with Realtor.com in which potential homebuyers can rent homes they're considering purchasing. You pay for the Airbnb cost, of course, but you actually get to live in the home and test out the feel of the neighborhood before you commit to a massive loan and the next several years (or decades) in one place.
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Glasses are one of those items you need to try on to be certain they look right, which can make them tricky to order online. Warby Parker is one of the better-known online retailers of eyewear, and they will ship you five pairs to try on, for free. That's better than buying several pairs and returning the ones you don't like, plus, their frames tend to be less expensive than those sold at an eye doctor's office or bricks-and-mortar specialty eyewear store (Warby Parker does have a few stores).
If you need adjustments, however, you will likely have to leave your house to have them fitted at an eyewear store. Otherwise, you can do this whole glasses-shopping thing from the comfort of your couch.
quicklist: title: Clothes text:
There are some services in which you can have a stylist shop for you and deliver selections to your door. There's one called Trunk Club for men and another called Stitch Fix for women. Shipping is free (Stitch Fix has a stylist fee that can be applied to a final order, while Trunk Club's website says there are no membership fees), and you pay for only what you keep.
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Pirch sells indoor and outdoor home appliances and fixtures, but the showrooms are interactive, allowing customers to base their kitchen and bathroom remodeling decisions off more than how much they like the way the stove top or shower head looks. There a few of the swanky stores in major cities, and the locations have a calendar of events, so you can see what appliances you get to play with when you show up.
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These companies may make shopping a little more fun and a heck of a lot easier, but don't let that distract you from the financial side of things. For bigger purchases, specifically cars and homes, you need to figure out the money situation well before you start trying things out, because it's easy to try nice things and go way over budget. Shop around for the best financing and take time to compare products, rather than jumping at your first option. Try to be proactive by checking your credit well in advance of loan shopping, so you can make an effort to improve it, if necessary, and research what sort of financing you can expect, based on your credit score.
Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.