shopping 101 – stop, sleep on it and save
Taking the time to shop effectively and apply the following steps when purchasing goods will save you money every time you shop and these savings will add up to hundreds if not thousands over the course of the year.
Those kinds of savings are pretty motivating but if following a shopping plan sounds like all the fun and spontaneity is taken out of shopping and you still want to keep on budget, then setting aside a slush fund or allowance means that you can have guilt free splurges without breaking the budget.
1. Stop and Sleep on it
One of the most effective marketing tactics retailers employ is creating a sense of urgency to purchase. “Sale ends soon”, “at these prices, they won’t last long”, hurry in before it’s too late”, “this sale is on for one day only”…retailers know that if you walk away to think about it, you will more than likely not make that purchase. And that’s exactly what you need to do – walk away and consider before you buy. It isn’t very often that taking time out to consider a purchase will mean that you miss out on the bargain of a lifetime. There will always be another sale. And it is surprising how often you will decide that you don’t really need or want that impulse buy after all.
2. Write a wish list
When you see or think of things that you want, write them down on a wish list. A wish list will help you:
- Prioritise your spending
- save up for what you want rather than buying on credit
- Help you to remember what bargains to keep an eye out for
- Gives you time to do research rather than rushing in and buying the first thing you see
- Think about the things that you will need in the future. For example, if your sheet sets are getting worn and threadbare, but you don’t need to replace them yet, you can note it down and keep an eye out for bargains. This means that there is no emergency to buy at top dollar when the sheets give out. And when you do see that bargain of a lifetime, you can take advantage of it guilt free.
When you prioritise your spending you can see how every half-hearted impulse buy prevents you from getting the things that you really want and need.
For clothes shopping, a good idea is to keep a list in your wallet of not only what you need, but what items you already have in your wardrobe. You can do this for partners and kids as well. It can be hard to remember what you already have, this way you can decide how the new item will fit into your existing wardrobe.
Don’t forget to keep a gifts list also. This way you can keep track of who you have to buy for and gift ideas so again, if bargains pop up, you can take advantage of them.
3. Work out what you really want and do your research
You see something you like, you walk away and give it some thought and decide, yes I really want that. Now it’s a good idea to do some research. You want to make a purchase that fits your needs well.
How much time you spend doing research will depend on the purchase item. For example, if you’re thinking about buying a pair of winter boots, it may only take a few minutes of consideration and trying on a couple of pairs to get the right fit and design. You might do a quick think about:
- what colour
- what height
- type of heel
- what you will wear them with
- Where you want to wear them (work or casual) and how ‘formal’ you want
- what size (trying a few pairs on)
- price range
This of course, may only take a minute or two, or if you’re like me weeks and weeks (I’m stingy and like to get that ‘perfect’ item at the right price).
On the other hand, if you’re buying a car, it might take a few weeks of researching and writing down specifications and shopping around. You might consider:
- how you intend to use the car (around town or long driving trips)
- new or used
- size of the engine and petrol consumption
- two door or four door
- manual or automatic
- extras that you want like air con or a CD player
- sedan or hatch
- reviews on reliability, what it’s like to drive
- cost of repairs
- price range
It is often suggested that as consumers we are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options available. By considering exactly what you’re looking for, it narrows down the field of options making it easier to shop, and ensures that you don’t end up with something that doesn’t meet your needs adequately, necessitating another purchase.
Thinking ahead about a purchase rather than buying on impulse gives you time to save money for all or part of the purchase rather than putting it on credit. Paying interest will reduce the value of any discount gained.
4. Go bargain hunting
You’ve thought about it, you’ve done your research and saved up some money, now it’s time to go bargain hunting. Bargain hunting will involve:
- Buying second hand
- Waiting for the sales
- Buying online
- Shopping around for the best price; and/or
- Haggling for a better deal.
With retailers being almost in permanent sales mode, and online selling booming, there’s no need to pay full retail price for anything.
5. Take care of your purchase
Saving money on consumer goods starts with having to buy less in the first place. One of the ways to cut down on purchases is to take good care your ‘stuff’ so that things last longer and therefore saves you money on unnecessary replacements. This may involve regular cleaning according to the manufacturers instructions, regular maintenance and general care that things don’t get broken (sometimes easier said than done, I know). This is where it often pays to spend a little extra up front and invest in quality that will last longer.
6. Know your rights
Keep the manufacturers warranty and receipt in a safe place in the event that you need it. Read the fine print and understand exactly what the warranty covers and under what circumstances.
Consumers have a lot of protection these days under the Trade Practices Act. You can find out more about consumer rights at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The reality is that not all retailers are adequately versed on consumer law, so if you need to, call the ACCC to get advice or make a complaint. I have called the ACCC on a number of occasions and they have always been very helpful. If you are being ripped off, it gives you the upper hand to be able quote the specific sections of the TPA that the retailer is in breech of when arguing your rights.
If you have already approached a retailer to complain about something and you’re just not getting anywhere, this is a useful script that I have used to good effect:
“I have contacted the ACCC and they have advised me that you are in breech of Section ‘x’ Part ‘y’ of the Trade Practices Act. I would prefer to resolve this matter with you now, however feel free to contact the ACCC for further clarification of the matter.”
Trust me, that usually does the trick. You wouldn’t start out using that though. Start by politely explaining the matter and requesting that it be resolved. Then escalate the matter to a manager. Honey works better than vinegar as they say, and a polite request is usually all it takes. However, the above script is your backup if the retailer just wont come to the party. If you’re still not getting anywhere with resolving an issue, the ACCC can advise you how to take the matter further.
After accommodation and food, a good portion of a personal or family budget involves purchasing some kind of consumer goods. By applying the above steps, you will always be saving money on both the necessary and discretionary purchases, keeping your budget on track.
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