How to find the cost of something depends on what it is and how it's sold. Naturally, for some items in stores you can simply look at a price tag. But if you're asking, "how much would something cost with tax and after any discounts?" Then you may still need to do some math. For other types of items, such as real estate or collectibles, it might be helpful to get a professional appraisal or see what similar items have sold for.
Pricing Items in Stores
It's sometimes easy to see how much an item costs in a store. Simply look for a price tag on the item or a label on a store shelf. But often, even when a price is listed, it doesn't necessarily take into account any taxes on the item or discounts that might be available.
How to Find the Price of Something on Sale
If you want to know how to find the price of something on sale, first determine the nature of the sale and verify it applies to the item in question. If it offers a flat discount, such as 50 cents off an item in a grocery store, simply subtract that amount from the price. If it offers a percentage discount, figure out the amount of the discount in dollars and cents by multiplying the percentage by the price and dividing by 100. Then, subtract the discount from the original price.
Figure out sales tax in a similar way. First, determine what the tax rate is on the item in question. Keep in mind that some states and local areas tax items differently, so certain merchandise like food or medicine may be taxed at a different rate than other merchandise, or not taxed at all. Once you know the tax rate, in decimal form, multiply it by the item's price to find the effective tax.
If you need help, you may be able to ask a store clerk to confirm what discounts and taxes apply, to scan the item or otherwise look up the total price. Use the calculator function on your cellphone if the math gets too tricky to do in your head.
Pricing Items Outside of Stores
In some cases, you may want to know how much something is worth that's not sold in a store. For example, you might have an antique owned in your family or a piece of real estate. Naturally, there's no price tag to look at in such a situation, but you can still estimate what the value of the item may be.
The easiest way to do so is often to look at sales of similar items. For real estate, websites like Zillow can provide an estimate based on sales of similar homes. For collectibles and antiques, you might look at auction websites such as eBay or resale stores such as Amazon to see if you can find similar items, and what they're listed for or are selling for. That won't tell you exactly how much your item is worth down to the penny, but it will give you a good sense of what the market might pay.
Get an Appraisal
For valuable items and situations where you need a more exact price, or one that you can show as proof to someone else, you can have the item or the piece of real estate professionally appraised. For a fee, an expert appraiser will give you a report saying how much your item is worth.
Remember that if you are looking to sell a valuable item, someone who is offering to buy it will not necessarily give you an accurate representation of how much it is worth. Consult an independent appraisal if you're not sure of the right price.
- Negotiate a price by being assertive, not aggressive.
- Review all rental agreements and purchase contracts before signing your name.
Steven Melendez is an independent journalist with a background in technology and business. He has written for a variety of business publications including Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, Innovation Leader and Ad Age. He was awarded the Knight Foundation scholarship to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.