When is a bargain not a bargain?

As a self-confessed thrifty person and general
voucher lover, code hunter and discount finder, I was intrigued by Ladbrokes’
recent campaign on ‘how to spot a good deal’.  The premise of the infographic they’ve
developed is that even though a lot of us have turned to bargain hunting in
these recent scrimpier times, what may
a good deal, may not always be one.  I’ve
had several occasions recently where I’ve been desperate to buy something on
the grounds that it’s a
, when my heart is telling me to leave it
on the shelf (or close that webpage).  I
find the psychology of shopping really interesting, and with all the tactics
and tricks that retailers play (pumping the smell of fresh bread out in
supermarkets, putting the best stock next to the aisles in shops, pricing
things so they somehow sound cheaper), it’s a virtual minefield out there and I
think we should all give ourselves a big pat on the back that we haven’t BOUGHT
ALL OF THE THINGS, god knows that’s we’re constantly being mentally coerced
into doing that! I’ve put together a little guide of things I’ve learned over
the years to try and help separate the bargains from the bum deals…

Img credit: express.co.uk

1. It’s not a bargain if you’re only buying it because it’s cheap

This one has been a hard lesson to learn for me.  On too many occasions have I picked up a dress that’s in the sale, or at a bargain price and thought “I MUST buy this, it is a DRESS, for £5!” The only thing is I wouldn’t look twice at it if it was £20, and I will probably never wear it. A good test is to ask yourself if you would buy it if it was three times the price. If the answer’s no, it’s not a bargain and you’re only buying it because you think it is. Primark is brilliant at ensnaring you with potential bargains, but 10 £5 things you’ll never wear is worse value than one £50 thing you’ll love to death.

2. It’s not a bargain if you can’t afford it

It sounds like a no-brainer but I’ve definitely been caught by this in the past.  That feeling of ‘need’ when something pops up that you really, really want, at a price you can’t ignore.  Except for you can’t really afford it, and it might mean beans on toast for the rest of the month.  It’s not worth it, especially if buying it is going to push you into an overdraft you pay interest on or mean putting it on a credit card you can’t pay off.  I can’t bring to mind a single thing I’ve not bought on the basis I couldn’t afford it that I really wish I had – there are always more bargains and more sales, wait until you have the money (plus it’s so much more pleasurable and doesn’t mean being wracked by guilt afterwards!)

3. It’s not a bargain if it’s cheaper somewhere else

Another no-brainer but one that can sometimes be a bit tricksy – even if something seems like an absolute bargain, it’s always worth checking that it’s not cheaper elsewhere.  On several occasions I’ve been about to check something out online before it’s occurred to me to try elsewhere; sites like Google Shopping will check other retailers to find the cheapest price and are always worth using.  

Ultimately my best tip is to follow your heart.  Even though it sounds cheesy and more suited to relationship advice than the choice between whether to, or not to, invest in a new pair of shoes, the angel on my shoulder is always giving me a swift kick when I’m considering buying something that isn’t really a good deal.  Just this week I showed Tom a pair of boots on next2nowt.com, exclaiming “aren’t they a bargain, £45 – they’re £85 in the shops!”. “That’s not a bargain at all,” he said, “You never wear boots!” And of course he was right… men eh?

What are your tips for avoiding bankrupting yourself via bargain hunting?

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| post written in collaboration with ladbrokes |