Consumer Reports: How to tell when sales are too good to be true

Do sales really offer the discounts they suggest?

Hard to believe the holidays are on the horizon -- again -- which means so too are Black Friday price-drops and Cyber Monday specials.

But do sales like these truly offer the discounts they suggest?

Well, Consumer Reports says that just the "idea" that you’re getting a bargain can affect a center of your brain that can cloud your reasoning and make you open your wallet.

Of course, retailers know this and play on it by offering deals that really might not be such good bargains.

So how do shoppers know when they’re getting a real steal?

Go in with your eyes wide open and with a healthy sense of skepticism -- and take advantage of tools that exist, including many apps that will help you track prices so you know when a deal is really a bargain.

Before you buy, browse extensions such as The Camelizer, Invisible-Hand or PriceBlink to scour the web for the best deals. Price alert apps, such as CamelCamelCamel, Price-Tracker, Shop it to Me and Slick-Deals, tell you when prices for the items have dropped.  

And price comparison apps like Buy-Via, Now-Discount, Scan-Life and ShopSavvy can tell you if there’s a better deal out there -- online or even at a local store.

While you’re shopping, coupon apps such as Coupon Sherpa or Snip-Snap offer discounts to use at checkout.

Want price protection even after you’ve shopped? Price adjustment apps continue to search the web after you charge something and initiate a refund if prices drop on something you’ve already bought. But you may have to expose your bank and credit card information for the apps to work.