We all work pretty hard for our money. And there are plenty of businesses out there working even harder to help us part with it.
So how do we make sure we – as consumers – are clever in how we spend our hard-earned cash?
Here are 9 ways to be a smart shopper and save some money.
9 ways to be a clever consumer and save money
1. Do your research
From quickly scanning the back of cereal boxes to spending hours on the internet reading reviews for fridges – it always pays to do your research. Know what you’re getting for your money and know that you’re not spending too much. To save money at the supermarket don’t just look at the price – look at the price per unit. For larger items make sure you shop around to find the best price as well as the best value for money.
Also learn to recognise quality – just because it is cheap now doesn’t mean it will be cheaper in the long run. You’ll have to replace it sooner and it often won’t do the job well enough in the meantime. Especially steer clear of cheap flimsy toys that will break within a few days. They waste your money and disappoint your children, at best. At worst they are unsafe and potentially dangerous.
2. Learn to look past the marketing gimmicks
There are many tricks to make a product appear better than it really is. Words like ‘fresh’ are used on packaging when the contents are far from it. Colours and graphics are used cleverly to align the product with certain notions or emotions. Businesses promote themselves as ‘award-winning’ when the prize could have been awarded because of a few clicks on a Facebook page.
Learn to look past these gimmicks. Remember to read the back of the food packaging rather than be sucked in by what is on the front. Know which awards carry weight in the consumer world and within specific industries. Realise that advertisers will always overstate how good a product is, how well it will solve your problems and how much you need it. Which means, in most cases, the product isn’t as good as it looks, won’t solve all your problems and you don’t really need it.
3. Don’t buy on impulse
The best way to make sure you don’t buy things on impulse is to keep a list. Many of us do this for grocery items but you can do it for all other purchases as well. In fact, one way to stop impulse buying is to keep a list of EVERYTHING you need or want to buy. From a new lipstick to a new car. Keep the list somewhere handy (on your phone perhaps) and then look at it every time you go to buy something and ask yourself: “Is this on my list? Is there something on my list I’d prefer to spend this money on or have this money go towards?”
4. Make sure you shop around
From small items in grocery stores to big ticket items – you should always shop around. That large jar of coffee might be $10 cheaper at another supermarket. Maybe you should shop there this week. That washing machine might be cheaper to buy online. You’ll never know if you don’t look.
5. Keep your receipts
If you buy something that doesn’t work as it is supposed to – or the carrots you bought yesterday are already moldy – then you’re entitled to a full refund. But if you have no proof of purchase – a receipt or even a credit card statement – then you might not be able to get that refund. Buying faulty goods and not being able to return them is a giant waste of money. Make sure you keep receipts for everything!
6. Use reward cards to your advantage
Reward cards are of enormous benefit to big business. They can track your spending and buying habits and they can tailor marketing just for you. But reward cards do offer benefits for you as well so if you use them cleverly you can reap the rewards too. Take them up on bonus offers but only when they’re asking you to spend a reasonable amount – or use that extra bit they’re asking you to spend to stock up on non-perishables items, especially if they’re on special.
7. Only buy when you have cash
If you can’t pay off your credit card debt in full at the end of each month then you end up paying way more than you should for items bought on credit. The easiest way to avoid flushing this money down the drain is to not buy things unless you have the money. If you’re struggling you will never get on top if you buy unnecessary items on credit. It is a trap you should avoid.
Even interest-free buy now, pay later schemes require you to pay sign-up fees etc meaning you’re still paying more than the item is worth. If you want to spend less money then the best thing to do is to save up for what you want to buy.
8. Ask for cash discount on bigger items
The best thing about saving your money and paying with cash is that many businesses – especially those selling appliances, home entertainment, furniture etc – will accept less for products if you pay with cash. So make sure you ALWAYS ask. Even if something’s just $50 they can almost always knock a bit off the price. Even if it’s just $5 – better in your pocket than theirs!
9. Know your rights under Australian Consumer Law
If you understand your rights under Australian Consumer Law you can save yourself a lot of money. Unfortunately there are a lot of sub-standard items out there for sale – from moldy fruit to large appliances that break within a year. We should not have to put up with it and thankfully we don’t have to. Under Australian Consumer Law we are entitled to a repair, replacement or refund if there’s a problem with a product or it doesn’t what it is supposed to do. This is an automatic guarantee – you don’t have to have filled out a warranty card or buy an extended warranty to access this entitlement.