The number of people setting off for the shops; post-Christmas sales on Monday 27 December 2021 was down by more than a third compared with 2019. Lots of us are still bargain hunting though, we have just switched to online.
But in-store or online, how do you spot the real bargains? And avoid buying things you will later regret?
Our brains are very good at processing lots of information fast by grabbing hold of some facts early on and letting them dominate decisions.
That was perfect when we were out hunting for food and living in caves, but online or in a shop it can go badly wrong!
There is a whole industry dedicated to making sure you don’t stop and think before buying an item in sales:
- bright Sale signs;
- tempting money off promises;
- it’s crowded with people searching the shelves and racks, or notices that 64 people are looking at this item online at this very moment;
- friends have been talking about what they hope to get;
- timers counting down to when discounts end…
these all add up to big mental pressure to grab something and pay for it fast.
But sometimes the bargains aren’t as good as they sound. And even if they are, they could well still be there in a few days time, so you can see if you can get an even bigger bargain elsewhere. Or have to time to think if you really want it, even if it is cheap.
Here are 8 reasons why you should look hard at those tempting Sale! stickers before deciding to buy.
1) It was never worth the original price
Your mind sees 60% OFF signs in bright colours and large letters. But don’t be fooled by all the loud sales signs into thinking this is a great deal.
This shirt has been reduced to £19.99 from £50.
Really? Do you think they would have sold any at the “original price”?
If the answer is No, then £19.99 isn’t a huge bargain at all, it’s just no longer stupidly over-priced.
Too many great-looking discounts are just stuff the retailer couldn’t sell and is now desperate to clear out. They want thier shop to new and fresh for the new year – do you want their old stuff? If it’s a classic piece, perhaps.
2) It is often available even cheaper than the Sale price
Which? has found that huge numbers of online Black Friday ‘deals’ weren’t genuine discounts at all.
3) Get it even cheaper elsewhere
In a shop, get your phone out and check the online price. Don’t forget that you might be able to get cashback from sites such as Quidco or Topcashback if you shop online.
Online, stick the item into your basket and go and check some other sites. You may find the same, similar, or even better somewhere else.
If it’s an electrical item, it may not be easy to compare prices as the model numbers multiply. So focus on what you actually want. The MC5001x toaster is on special offer but it’s still more than the MD5000 toaster online. Would the toast it makes really be any different?
4) Ignore countdowns
The Advertising Standards Authority has been trying to crack down on misleading end-of-sale clocks. A Watchdog report found:
Watchdog Live recorded 14 sales advertised on Boohoo’s site with a countdown clock. But after the clocks on the sale reached zero, they were reset and the offers continued.
Just because the sale may be ending doesn’t mean that this is a great buy. Take a moment to think if you really need this and then check if you can find a better price or a better alternative elsewhere.
5) 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 offering money off in the shops. And your energy bills are probably going up over the next few months.
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 so it sits unloved in your wardrobe. Buy those and they will only be worn a few times. Think cost-per-wear and decide whether it’s actually expensive, not a bargain at all.
6) It’s a “special purchase”
I had the following conversation on the phone when I saw a bargain on a website:
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 it’s not as good a bargain 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.
7) You pay more because it’s “cheap”
You need a new tumble drier, 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 cycles which is reduced from £500 to £350… saving a massive amount.
But you were never going to pay £500 for a tumble drier so this saving is an illusion. Don’t pay more for extra features that you will probably never use!
8) 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. Interest-free credit from Klarna and other Buy Now Pay Later sounds like a great deal, but it makes it very easy to spend more than wanted.
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 post-Christmas Sales. Good hunting!