Buyer beware...here are the false friends of the money saving crusader.
Buy One, Get One Free is usually a great deal. BOGOF promotions mean you're essentially getting two products for 50% off. ‘Buy two, get a third one free’ offers are still good, but that’s only a 33% savings. ‘Buy three, get one free’ deals save a reasonable 25% - but anything over that isn't worth bothering with. Also, beware of items with a short shelf life. If you buy a huge multi-pack of yogurts then get one free, are you really going to use them all before they go off?
Once online retailers have consumers on their website, they often offer them free delivery for spending over a certain amount, usually £30 or more. But watch out for this trap. If you’ve only gone onto the website to buy one specific thing, be careful not to be tricked into buying more just to qualify for the free delivery, which may work out more expensive than the original charge. This is all the more important now as some retailers charge extra or even decline to ship their products to Northern Ireland.
There’s a very simple reason why lots of stores offer extended warranties – it’s so they can make profit from them. It might seem like you’ve got a great deal on a TV that will last you for five years, but always remember to do the sums. You’re likely to end up spending more on the warranty than what the TV will cost to replace it by the time it defaults. There’s also a good chance that the extra protection you’re paying via the warranty won't even cover whatever goes wrong.
If you’re trying to cut down on the amount you’re spending on groceries, try switching from branded products to own-brand alternatives – that includes pasta, washing up liquid, cereals and coffee. Even if a well-known brand is on sale for a week, don’t be tempted to switch allegiances because of the marketing efforts; the own-brand will still be just as good and a lot cheaper. Watch out for multi-buys on brand sales too. When it comes to blind taste tests, consumers can seldom tell the difference between brands and their alternatives.
Is it really more expensive to opt for pre-packed fruit and vegetables or not? There have always been two options in the supermarket produce aisle: pre-packaged and loosely arranged fruit and veg. When packaged fruit and veg are on offer, beware. Loose can be a lot cheaper. Make sure you double check. While you're essentially getting the same item each time, most surveys reveal that purchasing loose items worked out to be cheaper 53% of the time - and 35% of the time it's more affordable to opt for packaged.
Have you ever been offered a free gift just for buying an additional product? This often happens in big retailers on the high street. When shopping for a beauty product, watch out for so-called free gifts persuading you to fork out extra. You may have only wanted a mascara at £23, but then you’re offered a make-up bag full of goodies if you purchase another product worth £20. It might seem like you’re getting more bang for your buck, but the free gifts are often small samples or out-of-season products.
Treat loyalty cards with a little caution and use them wisely. Make the most of vouchers that are given to you from the loyalty card, but watch out for their expiry date - and only use ones that save you money short term, as opposed to just double loyalty points. In the past, Sainsbury’s has been criticised for halving the value of its Nectar points while Marks & Spencer shoppers have complained that when they buy food, they are rewarded with vouchers they don’t want, such as those for fashion.
Twin packs of food, drink or clothing can often work out more expensive than buying two or a larger version of the same item. You’re paying for the additional packaging half the time. That’s why you need to do your sums while roaming the aisles. There’s also the whole issue of confusing multi-buys. Raising the price of an item when it’s on offer is more common than you might think. Watch out for these deals, check the weight, size and brand to see if you’re better off just buying one.
Watch out for the sting in the trial because free trials aren't really meant to be free. The goal is to introduce consumers to a product or service so that they keep it beyond the trial period. If you forget to cancel, the company automatically starts charging you. Many places ask for your bank details when signing up so they can start charging you immediately. If you do want to sign up, make sure you take note of the day you sign up and cancel before your trial is up.
Everyone loves a bargain, especially in these straitened times when the cost of everything – except wages in real terms – is going up. Consumers often find themselves attracted to deals that give them discounts of 10% for signing up online – but these offers are often too good to be true. Beware of online retailers roping you in with 10% off when you sign up to their newsletter or off your first purchase. Ask yourself if it’s necessary. You could be buying something for the sake of a discount you don’t need.