The atmosphere is enticing, the wine is flowing and there’s something up for grabs that you’ve had your eye on for a while. Such is the environment of a live charity auction. But before you put in your bid and hear that magical word “sold,” you may want to know what to expect when attending one, and how it’s possible to walk away with something that’s still valuable to you the next morning, even after the wine has worn off.

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It’s important to remember that a charity auction is about raising money for a cause, not ensuring that you snag the latest iPad for a bargain price. However, there are good deals to be had, especially if you are looking to travel, since many items at charity auctions are travel related. Wilson Fang recently told the LA Times about a romantic Napa Valley weekend he purchased for below retail value at a charity auction. It included his stay at a charming bed-and-breakfast, as well as wine tastings and dinner for two. On the other hand, it’s important to be wary of hidden restrictions within some deals. If you place the winning bid on a dream getaway only to discover that it expires before your vacation time begins, it could be a complete loss. Also, if you win a four-night stay that you want to turn into a week’s vacation, those few extra nights could be priced too high for your wallet, as Fang learned recently about an item for auction.

One way to avoid these surprises is to take your circumstances into consideration and do your homework. If a fundraiser catalog doesn’t show up before the event, request one. Learn the details and contact the hotels or travel agencies if necessary. If you need a larger room or an extension on the dates, they may be willing to honor that if contacted ahead of time. Or if there are additional fees, you can learn that before placing your bid. If it’s not an all-inclusive trip, you can get an idea of plane ticket costs ahead of time. Remember to take your circumstances into consideration, as well, by setting a budget.

Many people end up bidding on items they don’t want or need at live charity auctions, so if you’re serious about making a good purchase, you may want to turn down that third and fourth glass of wine while you’re there. But if you’re bidding out of goodwill and do not care if you take the trip or not, that’s even better: that four-day trip can always be gifted to someone. And whether or not you go home with a prized possession at the end of the night, you can go to sleep knowing that you’ve spent your dollars on a good cause—and that’s a win-win for all.