Money

COVID-19: Spending less on Shopping

Published on May 1, 2019 9:41 pm, by

Most spending in the Shopping category is Lifestyle related, therefore discretionary and so there will be lots of opportunities to spend less and save more. Our key tactics for spending less on Shopping are:

  • Stop Spending on things you don’t need or you can do without
  • For the things you do need, get the best deal you can

Stop spending on things you don’t need or you can do without

We all spend money on things we don’t need or we can do without. We do it for a lot of different reasons. Think about the things that trigger you to shop and what strategies you can put in place to offset those. Examples include:

  • Emails telling you about discounts at stores you like
    Unsubscribe from the emails. Sales are frequent these days so if you actually need something you can generally go online and find the best price or wait for well-known sale days, e.g. Black Friday, Boxing Day, end of the financial year
  • Buying things you don’t really need while shopping for things you do
    Shop for groceries online or outside of a shopping mall. There are lots of ways retailers can trick us into buying things and lots of ways we can prevent them. The 24-hour rule is one – where you don’t buy something as soon as you see it, rather you wait 24 hours and if you still want it, then you go and purchase.
  • Buying online because it’s so easy
    Shopping online can be so easy and efficient we can be tempted to shop more than we need to. If you make the shopping process less efficient you can slow the process down and do less of it
  • Using shopping to alleviate boredom
    Break the though pattern and the habit. When you are feeling bored have another activity pre-planned. Good options include things like going for a walk, going to the library or having a book to read.

If you want some more reading about why you shop the way you do, check out this article: https://www.moneybrilliant.com.au/blogs/cognitive-biases-and-how-they-affect-our-financial-decisions/

Getting the best deal you can

When you do need to (or you decide you want to) buy something spend less by getting the best deal you can. This will mean doing your research, being aware of all the purchase options you have and using a few spending hacks where you can.

Doing your research usually involves some online searching – Google is probably the best option for this, but you might also try online catalogues on sites such as Lassoo. A simple approach is to find the best price you can and then go to a retailer with a Best Price Guarantee and see if they will give you a better deal.

Our favourite spending hack is to use discounted gift cards to make your purchases. You can usually purchase gift cards from through rewards programs at a discount of 5-10% with a little bit of effort.

Clothes & Shoes

Be really clear on whether you actually need to spend more on Clothes & Shoes. Often fewer things and more planning give better results than lots of ad-hoc spending. There are great resources available to help you with planning your wardrobe, like these https://womens-fashion.lovetoknow.com/Basic_Wardrobe_Planning, https://www.becomingminimalist.com/declutter-the-closet/ and

When you really do need to buy Clothes & Shoes here are our tips for spending less:

  • First, have a budget and stick to it. Know what you can afford
  • Don’t pay full price – wait for it to come on sale, negotiate the price, ask for a discount for paying cash
  • Check the online retailers and outlet stores – Iconic, ASOS, Catch and eBay often have good discounts
  • Use the discounted Gift Cards hack if you can for a quick 5-10% discount

Electronics & Software

Electronics manufacturers seem to have many of us on an upgrade treadmill convincing us to upgrade every year or two the latest version of whatever they make. You can probably spend less by challenging yourself about whether you really need the latest phone, tablet, computer or software package. The fact is many of us don’t make use of the features available in the electronics and software products we already have so we may not get much use from new features either. Often we can just do without, or at least do without an upgrade for at least 1 or 2 upgrade cycles.

If you decide that you do need to spend on electronics or software make sure you get the best deal you can. Our tips for spending less are:

  • First, have a budget and stick to it. Know what you can afford
  • Do your research – know what you need, what’s available, and what the prices are
  • Don’t pay full price – wait for it to come on sale, negotiate the price, ask for a discount for paying cash, check to see if there are student prices available (assuming you have a student in the family)
  • Check the prices and features on slightly older models – they will often be discounted quickly when replaced by newer models
  • Ask your employer if you can salary sacrifice the item – if you use it for work it may be Fringe Benefits Tax and GST free and work out to be much cheaper
  • Use the discounted Gift Cards hack if you can for a quick 5-10% discount
  • Buy somewhere with a Best Price Guarantee or a Price Match Policy
  • Don’t forget Price Protection Insurance if you have it on your credit card

JB HiFi is generally our pick software and electronics for their product range and their Price Matching policy.

Electronics retailers and software manufacturers often have discounted student or academic licenses. If you have a student in the family take advantage of these special prices. As an example, you could pay $739 for Adobe Acrobat Pro 2017 or if you had a qualifying student in the family you could pay $169 for the Education version!

Another great option for software is to see if there is a free alternative to what you are looking for. For example, if you are looking for an Office type application (Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Presentation package) you could $199 pay for MS Office Home & Student 2019 or you could use the free Open Office alternative.

If your employer is willing to let you salary sacrifice electronics you may be able to save a lot by using it to purchase a laptop or mobile phone. Under certain circumstances, these will be Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) free and your employer may also pass on the GST to you as a saving. You can get more details about these arrangements from the ATO web site.

Whilst it might not look like much, all these tactics can add up to a significant saving on retail prices. For example, if you were buying a new laptop and waited for it to be on sale at say 15% off the retail price (not unusual for some laptop brands at JB HiFi) and then paid with discounted Gift Cards a $1500 laptop would cost you about $1211. If you were able to salary sacrifice the laptop through your employer it could be up to 50% cheaper again, depending on your marginal rate of tax.

Books

There are some easy ways to avoid spending on books, but still enjoy the pleasure of reading. The key tactics are:

  • Join your local library and borrow instead of buy
  • Organise a book swap with your friends, neighbours or work colleagues

When you need to spend on books there are also some easy ways to spend less. These include:

  • Buy second hand either at a second-hand book store or online
  • Buy electronic books, though this assumes you already have a fairly expensive electronic device to read them!
  • Shop around for the best prices using things like booko
  • Shop online at places like The Book Depository an online book retailer with free worldwide delivery
  • Use a discounted eGift card for a 5-10% discount

In our experience, new releases are cheapest at Big W & K-Mart.

Online Shopping

Whether it’s online shopping or in-person shopping the rules are much the same:

  • Think about the things that trigger your online shopping and do something about them to break the habit
  • Think carefully about whether you need what you are about to buy – a lot of the time you won’t “need” it. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it
  • If you do need it or you decide to buy it anyway then make sure you spend as little as you can.

Also, don’t assume that just because you are buying online you are getting a good deal. We’ve seen plenty of examples where items on eBay, for example, cost significantly more than the same item through a major retailer. There is no excuse for not doing your research and shopping around.

Homewares

Homewares can be such an easy category to spend in. There are so many options for sheets, towels, cushions, pictures, and knick-knacks that promise to make you feel happy and comfortable in your home.

If you love to shop for Homewares we suggest setting a budget and sticking to it. If you think you spend too much, then before you buy take a look around your home and see if you really need what you have your eye on.

Techniques to spend less on Homewares are similar to other categories above:

  • Work out your triggers, you may need to spend less time looking at magazines or things like Pinterest & Instagram
  • If you’re bored, walk away from your computer, tablet or phone and make a cup of tea rather than browse the shops
  • Invoke the 24-hour rule, once you’ve found it online, for the cheapest price don’t buy it for at least 24 hours
  • Every time you see something that you think you need, write it down. For example, don’t shop for a month, and write down everything that you are tempted to buy. Once next month arrives, take a look at the list and see if the things you captured still see necessary
  • Unsubscribe to marketing emails – I swear they come even if you haven’t signed up to them these days!

And when you have found an item that you have to have, shop around, find the cheapest price and as always see if you can access an eGift card to get an extra 5-10% off.

Jewelry 

Jewelry is a discretionary category. Any money you spend here is a pure accessory “want” decision. So if jewelry makes you happy and you have budgeted in the money, then our recommendation is to find the best quality you can at the lowest price. If you think you are spending too much on jewelry though, you might want to try some techniques to spend less:

  • Work out your triggers, you may need to spend less time looking at magazines or things like Pinterest & Instagram
  • If you’re bored, try something different to stop you from browsing the shops
  • Invoke the 24-hour rule, don’t buy on impulse!

And when you are happy to go and spend some of your hard-earned cash on jewelry, then we suggest shopping around. If you’re going to buy some, make sure you will wear it. And always ask for the jeweler’s best price, often they will negotiate.

Newsagent

If you want to spend less at the Newsagent our advice is to simply stop! These days there isn’t really much that you need to buy at Newsagents (which is why many of them are going out of business, unfortunately). Our tips are:

If you are buying lottery tickets then stop. The fact is your chances of winning are infinitesimally small and you’d be better of saving the cost of the lottery tickets.

If you are buying newspapers then stop. You can get newspapers online – on your phone, tablet or computer. Some are completely free, some now have “pay walls” and some of these are easily avoided.  Here is one approach to doing just that. If you don’t want to that there are plenty of other free news sources such as the ABC.

If you’d like to spend less on newspapers and magazines but still be able to read them, you may wish to consider alternatives:

  • Some library services give you access to online magazines
  • Check out the subscription options for newspapers – many papers offer digital subscriptions that are less costly
  • If you buy certain publications regularly check out the subscription prices and calculate whether you will save
  • If you are going to subscribe check if you can get a discount through any of your memberships – e.g. Entertainment book members receive discounts

And of course, if you do have a subscription to a publication but you’re finding that you don’t read it so much anymore, it might be worth canceling and buying when you will read it.

 

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Peter is the CEO of MoneyBrilliant. He has over 20 years experience in banking, insurance and accounting. Peter has three sons, ranging in age from 16 to 3, is a sport and fitness fanatic and a volunteer firefighter. He is passionate about improving people's lives through making financial services more accessible.

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