Are you planning to head for the sales on Boxing Day? How do you spot the real bargains and avoid 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) 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 was perfect when we were out hunting for food and living in caves, but in a shopping mall it can go badly wrong!
Your mind sees 60% OFF signs in bright colours and large letters. And it’s crowded with lots of people searching the racks and that January Sales bargain may not be there tomorrow at all so your mind switches into a quick, grab that deal before it’s gone mode.
The small print saying up to 60% 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.
2) It’s cheaper online
Get out your phone and make a few checks. Don’t forget that you might be able to get cashback from Quidco or Topcashback if you shop online.
If it’s an electrical item, it’s often not easy to compare prices as the model numbers multiply. So focus the features are that you actually want. The N610 coffee machine may be almost the same as the N600 version which is cheaper online – don’t assume paying £35 more is going to make a better cup of coffee!
3) You don’t need it
So it really is 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 water bills offering money off in the shops.
Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s going to be a great present for someone. You need to know exactly who you will give it to. Otherwise, you can end up with a lot of apparent bargains that aren’t really right for anyone.
Think of previous sale purchases – jeans that were half price but not a great fit, that coat which isn’t either waterproof or warm, a dress that never seems right to select from your wardrobe. Buy those and they will only be worn a few times.
Think cost-per-wear and decide it’s actually expensive, not a bargain at all.
4) Remember the £19.99 trick
That top 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?
5) It’s a special purchase
I had the following conversation in the January sales a couple of years ago:
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 that bargain wasn’t as cheap as it first appeared. And 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’ve been waiting for this weekend as you need a new washing machine, you have £300 to spend and the one you wanted is reduced to £260 – more than 10% less – result!
Except there is another model with six extra wash cycles which is reduced from £500 to £350… saving a massive amount.
But you were never going to pay £500 so this saving is an illusion. Don’t pay more for 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 all too easy to overspend on a credit card, especially if it’s contactless. 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.
Buy 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 this weekend. Good luck!