These days, household budgets seem to be shrinking. It feels like years since we’ve seen a pay increase and prices continue to rise. Just the thought of the current energy price hikes in the UK can bring out the bargain-hunter in most of us. However, before going coupon-crazy, take a few minutes to consider the potential pitfalls. Have you ever asked yourself the following question: When is a bargain not a bargain? We have, and here are some of the surprising things we turned up. There’s something very exciting about a time-limited bargain. It implies that if you don’t act quickly you’ll miss out. Acting quickly may secure you the alleged bargain, but it means that you haven’t given yourself time to shop around. For example, many of us are signed up to coupon sites and receive emails about enticing offers with unbelievable discounts of seventy-five percent.
But these bargains aren’t always what they seem. Before you snap up the deal, compare prices on a price comparison site. If you’ve been offered a genuine deal, then you can go ahead, secure in the knowledge that you couldn’t have bought it cheaper elsewhere. The problem has become so bad recently that, according to Sean Poulter in The Daily Mail, the Advertising Standards Authority has recently upheld a number of complaints against misleading offers. Likewise, when you’re checking out the sales and the bright red price tag screams For One Week Only, Less Than Half Price, don’t rush to the checkout with your purchase. Instead, do some detective work on the small print, especially if you’re shopping online. Quite often, the old price is in small black print and crossed out, with the new price in big red print written below. Take a very close look at the screen (you may have to use the zoom function). Can you see a tiny asterisk, most likely in small black print? You often need to scroll down a screen or two to find out what this asterisk means. In very, very small print, you may be astonished to find out that this item has been on sale for only ten pounds more than its amazing sale price. Fair enough, you’re still getting a bargain, but a much smaller bargain than you expected.
Of course, there are genuine discounts, offers and deals around and they can make a huge difference to the household budget. Before going ahead though, just ask yourself these two common-sense questions. 1. Do I really need this item, or do I just think I need it because the offer runs out in a few days? The thought of losing out on a bargain can sometimes convince people that a particular item is absolutely essential. Cool off for five minutes by comparing prices and shopping around. When you realise that you can buy this item for a lot less all-year round, then it will take the heat off your decision making process. If you decide that you do need this item, then go ahead and buy it at the best price. 2. Is this price really the most amazing offer/bargain/deal, or is it just empty words? Again, check prices online – use price comparison sites and auction sites to get an idea of price. Finally, always remember that this advice doesn’t just go for consumer durables. Money saving pitfalls also apply to services and utilities, so you should ask yourself the same questions about electricity prices, grocery bills and getting the car serviced.
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