How to Save Money on Your Shopping
Saving Money Week Looking for bargains need not be a chore – as part of our series on saving cash, here are some ideas to make your budget stretch further
How much do we spend?
Among the many knock-on effects from the vote to leave the EU came an unwanted development for shoppers – the cost of buying groceries went up. The prices of butter and fish have soared since last summer and grocery prices across the board have increased well ahead of the rate of inflation. What does that mean for the average shopper? Bigger bills at the checkout first of all, as retailers have also cut back on promotions. But shoppers have been quick to react and many are now spending less and being more cautious about what they buy as inflation bites. High-street stores have seen a drop in sales while more people go online to shop around.
Three simple must-dos
1. Only buy what you need Before you shop, stop and question yourself – do I really need this? Vouchers, special offers and deals can work in your favour, but are there to make sure you spend more. “Never buy something you don’t need just because it’s on offer,” says the Money Advice Service. It’s simple but still good advice – supermarkets are there to make people spend; hold off buying anything unnecessary. If the item is needed, look for a better offer from another retailer.
2. Avoid brand premiums Flashy packaging, brand names and the accompanying higher price do not necessarily mean that a product is better than its cheaper rivals. Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert has long championed the “downshift challenge” – dropping down one “brand level” on all goods and then seeing if there is a difference in the quality. If there is not, then stay with the cheaper one and bank the savings that come with it. This prevents spending money for no reason. There are four descending “levels” of brands – from premium to branded, own brand and value – according to Lewis. Try moving down from one level to the next in one of the items you buy in the supermarket – for example, buy one packet of branded pasta along with another packet of your standard pasta – and see if you can spot the difference.
3. Get ready to haggle Haggling is not just for fruit stalls in the local marketplace. There is frequently leeway on price tags, especially when buying electronics. While trying to argue a price down may not come easily to some, it can lead to huge savings. Consumer group Which? advises shoppers to seek out the most senior person in a shop, be polite and make sure that you show you are serious by saying that you are ready to buy the product in question there and then. Bring evidence of better deals that you may have seen and be flexible – if you can’t get a reduction in the price then perhaps you will be able to get some accessories for free or at a reduced price. But don’t be afraid to walk away if you can’t get the deal you want.
Five easy ways to save
1. Switch your supermarket Any consumer hoping to save a few quid in goods or services should be well used to the idea of switching – changing providers to get a better deal. This is not confined to broadband contracts; the same principle can be applied to your supermarket shop. Price comparison site mySupermarket looks at the prices for goods across the major supermarkets and updates the site daily with the latest prices and promotions. Users can fill their online baskets in the normal way and are then offered the option of going to the cheapest supermarket. The site also suggests item swaps to cheaper alternatives.
2. Watch out for reduced items Look for the yellow vouchers in supermarkets that mark out those goods being sold to clear at sometimes greatly reduced prices. When and where to find the best bargains can be a tricky game – they are not advertised and can crop up on different goods at different times of the day. MoneySavingExpert says that the first stickers can appear in supermarkets mid-morning, while the more extreme price drops often happen later in the day. But the same core rules stand no matter how much a product is reduced – if you are unlikely to eat something, don’t waste your money, no matter how small it is, just to bag a bargain.
3. Buy online from China Look east. Ever increasing numbers of British people are buying from China via sites such as Alibaba, LightInTheBox, DHGate and Everbuying. And there are bargains to be had – mobile phone cases for less than a pound and a woman’s belt for under 20p among them, both with delivery included. Buying from China comes with its drawbacks – delivery times can be up to six weeks and you run the risk of an additional bill for VAT and customs charges, depending on how much purchases are valued at. In order to avoid extra charges or if you are wary that some of the goods – especially electronics – may not be what you want or faulty, then keep your spend under £15. Don’t assume that just because prices seem cheaper you can’t get a similar deal from European outlets.
4. Buy more to save on delivery With more shopping being done online, there are an increasing number of ways to save. Firstly, use shopbots to find the cheapest price for a product. Like comparison sites, they trawl the web for the best price and list off all of the options. Among the main sites are Twenga and Kelkoo, while MoneySavingExpert has a tool that searches through all the big sites. The bane of online shopping can be delivery charges – £20 being the minimum threshold of purchases for free delivery in the case of Amazon. Add smaller, less expensive items to your cart to push it over the threshold and it could mean you save on the larger cost of paying for delivery. Amazon Prime carries a monthly charge but there is a 30-day free trial in which you can avail of the free delivery that comes with the paid-for service.
5. Apps that prevent waste Get the money-saving apps. Too Good To Go links users up with local restaurants that have food at the end of the day and sell it at reduced prices. Aimed at saving food waste, a specific time window is given to pick up the food. Prices range from £2 to the maximum of £3.80. Another app, Olio, aims for households to share produce that is going to be unused – from food nearing sell-by dates in the local supermarket to items in your own fridge. Users put up a picture, a description and a time to collect.
Advanced money-saving tip
Search the web for coupons Using voucher codes can drastically cut the cost of your shopping basket, both online and in the supermarket. Sourcing vouchers from across the internet, extreme couponing, has become a pursuit for eager savers. Jordan Cox, MoneySavingExpert’s Coupon Kid, once got £600 worth of groceries for 4p after rounding up scores of coupons. Holly Smith, from Great Yarmouth, has almost a million followers on her Facebook page, where she posts the best coupons she has found; she once bought £1,164.39 worth of shopping for £0, and gave it all away to charities.