Late December and early January are the best time of the year for sales. But it’s all too easy to get caught up in the rush and end up with something that isn’t such a good bargain at all.
So how do you spot the real bargains? And how do you avoid being tempted into buying things you will later regret?
Here are seven reasons why you should look hard at those tempting Sale! stickers before deciding to buy.
1) Remember the £19.99 trick
That shirt reduced to £19.99 – the shop knows it will sell a lot more of them than if it had cut the price to £20. Your brain sees that first number, the One, and ignores the rest so it looks much cheaper than a price starting with a Two does.
You have probably heard of this trap already. It’s still hard not be fooled by it! Try picking up the item and saying in your head Is £20 a good price for this?
2) It was never worth the original price
That shirt has been reduced from £55. Really? Do you think they would have sold any at that price? If the answer is No, then £19.99 isn’t a real bargain at all, it’s just no longer stupidly over-priced. Don’t be fooled by all the loud sales signs into thinking this is a great deal.
The human brain is very good at processing lots of information fast by grabbing hold of important facts early on and letting them dominate decisions. That probably worked brilliantly when we were out hunting for food and living in caves, but in your local shopping centre it can go badly wrong.
Your mind sees 50% OFF signs in bright colours and large letters. And if there are lots of people around all hunting through the rack and carrying bags of stuff your mind switches into a quick, grab that deal before it’s gone mode. The small print saying up to 50% doesn’t seem important, even if you read it. Nor whether the original price was ever sensible. Or indeed whether the retailer ever charged that price recently.
3) It would be cheaper online
Get out your phone and make a few checks. Don’t forget that you might be able to get cashback, for example from Quidco or Topcashback if you shop online.
If it’s an electrical item, it can be hard to price compare because shops with special deals often have model numbers that no-one else has. So focus the features are that you actually want. The BR74x toaster may be almost the same as the BR-64 toaster which is cheaper online – don’t assume paying £10 more is going to get you better toast!
4) You don’t need it
It may be cheap, but if you don’t need it there may be something better to spend your money on. You don’t see council tax or car insurance or electricity bills having money off in the January Sales.
You do need a couple of neutral tops for work, but there is nothing in your size except a lime green one or one with lacy bits. They are nice, but you’re not sure what the lime green would go with and the lacy one seems more like an evening top… leave them on the rack!
Remember how much you’ve wasted in previous sales on trousers that were half price, that coat that’s just rather meh, and a dress that doesn’t seem to fit right. If you buy it, it will only be worn a few times and just hang in your wardrobe. Think cost-per-wear and decide it’s actually expensive, not a bargain at all.
5) It’s a special purchase
I had the following conversation in the January sales last year:
Me: “Is the 1200 pocket special mattress in the sale the same as the 1200 pocket in the shop last month?”
Sales assistant: “No, it’s going to feel firmer as there is one cotton layer less.”
Now I might be happy to pay a bit less for that. But the “bargain” wasn’t as cheap as it first appeared. If I had just assumed they were the same, I could have bought a mattress that wasn’t right for me.
6) You are tempted to pay more because it’s “cheap”
You were planing on spending £300 on a new washing machine and the one you wanted is reduced to £270 – result! Except there is another model with six extra wash cycles which is reduced from £500 to £350… saving a lot more money.
But you were never going to pay £500 so this saving is an illusion. Why pay more for those extra wash cycles you will probably never use!
7) It’s going on credit
Unless you repay the balance on your credit card in full each month, the interest really adds up. If you often only pay the minimum, you’ll still be paying for those shoes in 10 or 15 years time, long after they have been thrown away, and you will have paid much more than the full price was.
It’s easy to overspend on a credit card – and if you are using contactless it may not feel like real money at all. Why not decide how much you are prepared to spend in the Sales and take that out in cash? It can be much harder to hand over real money for an item you aren’t 100% sure about, you will be more inclined to shop around a bit more and see if you can’t find something better.
And By Now Pay Later deals can be a real trap. A year’s interest free credit sounds like a great deal, but if you are just a day late paying at the end of the year, you get hit with a large interest bill immediately as it’s backdated to when you bought it!
Get what you need at a good price
Everybody loves a bargain. If you remember the points here, you may be able to bag a few real ones in the Sales. Good luck!