Top tips for sale shopping, to avoid getting ripped off

This post is part of a paid partnership with Capital One UK, but all views are my own.

Picture of a stripey sale bag

Check you’re bagging real bargains in the sales

Buying stuff in sales that you need anyway is a great way to save cash – so long as you can avoid dodgy deals. 

More than 55% of Brits have snapped up an item in a sale that later turned out to be a rip off, according to research by Capital One UK.

Just over a third (35%) experienced the frustration of seeing the same item cheaper elsewhere afterwards, and a third (33%) said the quality was not what they had expected when buying it. 

I’m a big fan of starting Christmas shopping in the January sales, picking up cards and presents for less.  However, retailers use all kinds of clever tricks to persuade us to spend more. Once you know about these sneaky tactics, you have more chance of spotting real savings and avoiding dodgy discounts.

This year, Capital One asked me to share tips on making the most of sale shopping, so you can save money, avoid impulse purchases and stay within your budget.

Picture of Christmas cards with 50% off

Plan ahead to cut the cost of Christmas

Top tips for sale shopping

Try the ‘stranger test’

If you are tempted by an impulse purchase, shut your eyes and imagine a stranger offering you the product in one hand or the cash in the other. Which would you choose? Usually, it’s the cash.

Do your sums

If you are considering buying something, break down the price into the hours it would take to earn it. For example, someone on the national minimum wage of £8.91 an hour would need to work around 107 hours to buy a new iPhone Pro 13. Suddenly, that pricey purchase might seem less attractive.

Stop while shopping

Our brains fire up at the sight of a bargain. But neuroscientists have found that waiting even ten minutes for a reward dramatically reduces our response to it. So before shelling out, walk out of the shop or click on a different website. After a break, you may well see the ‘value’ of the purchase more clearly.

Stay protected when shopping online

Always check for the little padlock sign by the website name before putting in your details when shopping online. Think about how you pay too: using a credit card for purchases over £100 offers protection if the goods or services are faulty or never arrive.

Don’t be panicked by the scarcity effect

Low stock alerts and lighting deals with countdowns are used to create a sense of urgency. This is called the ‘scarcity effect’, and means that if we think something is running out, we want it more. Once you know about these sneaky tricks, you might think twice before pressing ‘buy now’.

Make sure it really is a bargain

Do your research to check if that bargain really is. Some shops hike up the price just before a sale, so they can advertise big savings during the sale. Use price comparison sites to check if you really are getting a good price – or just the standard selling price.

Get a bargain on something you have already bought

Few things are more infuriating than seeing something you’ve already bought on sale for less. 

Yet some retailers will price match even after you have made a purchase. At John Lewis, for example, you can claim a refund online for the difference if you find the exact same product cheaper elsewhere within 28 days of buying it. Just bear in mind that the John Lewis price match doesn’t apply to internet only shops, such as Amazon, ASOS and eBay. 

Other shops offering a price match promise after purchase, although for seven days, include Currys PC World, Blacks, Halfords and AO.com.

Be wary of the middle

Retailers tend to display the most profitable items around eye level, in the middle of the shelves. If you want to save money, look up and down, at the highest and lowest shelves, to find cheaper options.

Be wary of price anchoring too, when shops display a range of prices. By placing items next to a really expensive option, we are tempted to trade up from the cheapest, even if the middle option involves spending more than we intended.

Benefit from discount codes

Download a plug in for your internet browser, to prompt you with discount codes when shopping online. Check out Pouch and Honey, which automatically search and list valid voucher codes when checking out, so you can pocket the savings.

Cut the cost of credit

The majority of shoppers (55%) use a credit card to buy stuff in sales. That’s great if you can clear your balance in full and on time every month. But if you can’t afford to pay it all off, do weigh up the true cost of your bargain, if you also have to pay interest on top. 

If you are running credit card balances, see if you can cut interest payments by switching to a card with lower or no interest. Check if you are likely to be accepted before applying, by using a soft credit search tool such as Capital One’s Balance Transfer Guarantee. Otherwise, if you apply and are rejected, it could affect your credit score.

Now – over to you. What are you top tips for making the most of sale shopping, without overspending?

 

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