/ Money, Shopping

Savvy shopping: how far would you go to save?


It looks like the effects of economic strife have had a real impact on our ‘shopping style’. Are you a savvy shopper who’s always out to get the best price? Do you have any shopping tips for other cash-strapped Brits?

In the past year alone, we apparently saved a collective £32.1bn by using savvy shopping techniques – from trawling the web for discount codes and taking advantage of high street sales, to signing up to cashback sites.

Waiting until a full-price item comes on sale is an accepted tactic. I can, rather shamefully, admit to going one step further: returning an unworn item bought full price, only to pick it up on sale from another branch down the road. Absolutely worth the effort.

A colleague of mine swears by ‘barcoding’: visiting the shop for a strategic browse, whipping out a smartphone and scanning the barcode of the desired item to find it cheaper online. A smart move, though keeping it subtle can be something of a challenge.

Truly dedicated bargain hunters can even purchase near sell-by-date food online for bargain prices. Is that savvy or a step too far? I’m on the fence, though for products like detergent and washing powder, I might give it a go.

The challenges of savvy shopping

Of course, bargain hunting isn’t without its pitfalls. Although cashback sites like Quidco can be a boon for getting money back when you spend, we’ve heard stories of it taking months to pay out. And there’s also hit or miss customer service systems to negotiate.

Equally, the stress of tracing an AWOL online order or the hassle of returning it, can sometimes negate the benefits of online bargain hunting.

I’m not ‘barcoding’ yet, and I’m a pretty far stretch from buying (nearly) gone-off food online. Nevertheless, I suppose I’m a pretty committed bargain hunter. How far would you go to save the pennies?


My main way of saving is to keep household goods for much longer than most people. If something breaks down, I can often fix it. I’m sure that I save a lot more money than those who shop around and get the best bargain. I don’t do this items such as computers and cameras, where the technology is advancing fast.

I don’t shop around for supermarket items. If something looks expensive, I try and buy an alternative. I bulk-buy non-persishable products – such as detergents and toilet rolls – when the price is good.

As to non-perishable popular food and non-food items stocked by all the major
supermarkets, there comes a time when they have to be discounted to half-price,
or 33.33% off OR subject to BOGOF or 3 for 2 offers OR any combination of discounts
….. smart thing to do is to time the purchases very carefully selecting the best deals,
if need be move your purchases to ethnic outfits buying in bulk if necessary…..
also if time is not of the essence, there are bargains to be had as to near sell-buy-date
foods and freeze those not immediately consumed, similarly heavily discounted too.

Erratum: Shd of course be ‘…sell-by-date foods’ not otherwise
re foregoing.

Like wavechange and Argunaut, I bulk-buy non-perishables whenever they’re on a really cheap offer. My cellar is currently overflowing with toilet roll and tonic water due to a couple of particularly good deals!

I also make use of online vouchers whenever I can – I’ll do one huge online shop every couple of months, stocking up on non-perishables and things that are heavy, and I’ll usually try to match it with one of the ‘get £X off your next shop’ emails that I get through from the big supermarkets every now and then. My tip for these vouchers if you shop online is to do one shop from each major supermarket, taking advantage of the better deals you get as a first time customer, then keep an eye out for unusually good ones as they all inevitably spam your inbox to try and get you to come back to them.

Jose says:
29 April 2013

I do ‘barcoding’ but i’m not subtle about it. I have been confronted for doing it but simply explain that if they can offer it to me at the same price then I’ll buy it there. Why shouldn’t the customer have the power?!

Absolutely…. I entirely agree.

You are infringing nothing… tell them to mind their
own business…. don’t have to explain anything at

I have used a tablet or laptop to check prices online when shopping for electrical goods, usually in my car outside the store. When I confirmed that Comet was pricing Apple goods above the manufacturer’s own price in their closing sale, I took my iPad into Comet and showed the Apple prices to a sales assistant. He was well aware of what was happening and said that the receiver was trying to sell the remaining stock for as much as possible. Fair enough, but I wonder how many people pay over the odds in closing down sales.

I cannot be bothered to compare prices of supermarket items but would have words with the management if anyone tried to stop me from checking prices online.

Steve Ellis says:
29 April 2013

I don’t trust the reduced price offers all the time. I often look for the bottom shelf stuff which is often the same product in different sizes and cheaper… Tesco is the worst for this, they blatantly try to mislead you and try to draw you away from the real price savers. One good example a few months ago… they increased the price of Shredded Wheat 30 biscuit packs to £2.99 (about a 10% increase). I looked down on the bottom shelf and the packs of 16 were £1. Another one they tried was Dolphin friendly Tuna… 4 pack reduced to £3.99.. individual tins 75p (4 for £3) same product…. I shop at Asda more often now, but you still have to watch them….

I do my main shop in my local Waitrose each week and find that I have to shop carefully in order not to pay over the odds for products. I then shop in Morrisons or Tesco every few weeks and buy store cupboard items and other special priced items. The quality of the fresh produce is very high in Waitrose but so is the price. I find it difficult to believe that Waitrose and Morrisons were given the same score for price in the recent Which? survey. Perhaps the Waitrose customers are so pleased with their customer service, they don’t bother to shop elsewhere, so don’t know they can save money by slumming in other supermarkets.

To save money on a regular basis you really need to know the prices of your items in your target stores. I’m afraid my memory is so bad for such detail. it is usually safer to stick to the one store. Perhaps when I upgrade to a smart phone, I will be able to use a little app to keep track of prices. That may not happen for a decade or so.

Steve Ellis says:
29 April 2013

I’m also a great believer in “fix it” don’t scrap it. It is amazing how many cheap parts you can get for most household items, and cars on the internet. Broken key fob for a Toyota… £180. New key fob case £5. Key cutting £5… (didn’t have the Toyota logo but so what? Saved £170). New drive belt for tumble dryer… £6.50 plus a few screws removed and about an hour of my time… loads of money saved. My Dad’s 1000 candle power search lamp. Cost of a new one £54… replaced battery and bulb… just like new now… £21.. Loads more examples… just use the internet…. oh and if you break your iPhone screen don’t take it to a shop.. order the part and a special tool kit from the internet… comes with instructions etc…. mega money to be saved here….