/ Shopping

Hitting the shops? Here’s what you need to know first

I love saving money, but traipsing from shop to shop, trawling the web or fighting off other bargain hunters in the sales? Not so much. Well, shopping for cheap household products can be easier than you think.

Time it right

Unless it’s an emergency, it pays to bide your time. Some products are routinely reduced at certain times of year – generally when they’re out of season and shops want to shift stock.

Lawnmowers, for example, are often sold cheaply at the end of the autumn and spring gardening rush. Likewise, pressure washers feature regularly in Boxing Day and summer sales (but keep a lookout across the year, as they’re often bundled into special offers with other products and accessories).

Keep Christmas in your heart all year

Remember that 1996 film Jingle all the Way, where Arnold Schwarzenegger dashes around on Christmas Eve trying to buy the Christmas present his son has his heart set on? Learn from Arnie’s error and start shopping early.

In particular, avoid buying home-entertainment products, such as TVs and cinema systems, in the Christmas run-up. That’s when demand is at its highest, so you could end up spending a silly sum.

Try before you buy

Over a third of you told us you’d feel self-conscious lying on a mattress in a shop. But years of peaceful sleep are at stake here, so it’s well worth it, and a good shop shouldn’t make you feel awkward anyway.

A word of warning: just as you shouldn’t go food shopping when hungry, don’t try a mattress at the end of a long day. Any old mattress will feel lovely when you’re already halfway to the land of nod.

Cut corners

Do you really need the Nutribullet 600, or will a lookalike do just as well? We’ve unearthed two excellent blenders that cost a mere £30 each. It’s always worth checking our reviews to see if a pricey popular product has a cheaper, equally cheerful, cousin.

Review supermarket prices regularly

Supermarkets are fiercely competitive about pricing, but which is the cheapest of them all? And will it still be such great value a month on?

Use our canny comparison tool to find out. Using data from MySupermarket.co.uk, we compare the cost of over 70 branded groceries each month across the major supermarkets.

We’ve found that dishwasher tablets can fluctuate by £8 across the year: packs of 30 branded dishwasher tablets can vary from £5 to as much as £13. We also found that some are discounted for half the year at Asda, and for nearly as long at Tesco and Sainsbury’s. So it could be worth buying a batch if you spot them at their cheapest.

Price match

Consider using price-matching schemes. If your bill isn’t 10% cheaper in Asda than Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose or Morrisons, it will give you a voucher towards your next shop.

Tesco also checks the price of branded products against some of its competitors, and deducts any difference at the till. Ocado and Waitrose price match against Tesco on certain items, too. So arm yourself with information before heading out.

Haggle

It’s easy to assume that the number on the tag is the price you have to pay. But fortune favours the bold. Shops will be far less surprised and much more willing to lower their prices than you’d think. Bring examples of cheaper online prices, ask to speak to a manager and don’t put this off until you’re absolutely desperate for the purchase: a shop assistant with any nous will smell desperation a mile off.

What are your top tips?

Do you know the best time to buy or any shopping secrets? Do you feel confident haggling and about your experiences of getting terrific deals?

Comments
Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

I wonder if it woulf be helpful to give people the cost of taking a car an extra mile or two to another show. AFAIR a few years ago the cost per mile for depreciation and waer and tear was over 50p a mile. I guess the new figure is higher. An extra 5 miles to another supermarket is therefore £5 as a hidden cost.

Most people do not analyse these costs so perhaps Which? could do it for them.?

Profile photo of Lauren Deitz
Member

This could be a hidden cost. Have you ever tried using https://www.viamichelin.co.uk/ @dieseltaylor? It calculates the estimated cost of your journey. Although I can’t say how accurate it is. I did once use it a few years ago for a road trip I made down to Spain, I estimated the journey for fuel and toll costs and total cam to within a few Euros of what the actual cost was. I find it really useful, although I don’t think it accounts for wear and tear

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
21 September 2016

Viamichelin kindly send me regular e-mails on travel thank you : )

theaa.com/resources/Documents/pdf/motoring-advice/running-costs/petrol2014.pdf
theaa.com/resources/Documents/pdf/motoring-advice/running-costs/diesel2014.pdf

Provides all the running costs and depreciation etc etc. Also calculates for the capital cost of the vehicle. For both engines the cost per mile on a 10,000 usage is just over 50p a mile for an average car.

Therefore travelling extra miles for small savings can be self-defeating.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

BTW when are Lidl and Aldi going to be included in the basket comparison test?

I understand that they do not do the same brand names but at the end of day my milk, my chocolate, my butter etc etc are basic products where brand names are irrelevant.

We also know form tests that the Lidl and Aldi brands of detergents are near-enough field-leading. I am not sure why you restrict it to the big name supermarkets. Telling us that a washing tablet is cheaper than normal at Tesco for half a year begs the question is it cheaper at Aldi all year.

Profile photo of Ian
Member

I don’t agree that Chocolate is not brand-relevant. And Which?’s own best buy recommendation for Aldi washing up liquid was disastrous. Which? hadn’t bothered checking temperature sensitive viscosity, so unless your house was heated to 73F when you did the washing up the stuff wouldn’t come out of the bottle.

However, top tips: buy out of season, obviously. Christmas presents are great value in January and toys in July, interestingly, while Barbecue sets can be picked up for coppers in October. Amazon offers Lightning deals which can be extraordinarily good value, but you do have to check every day. Having said that, we saved £40 on an outdoor storage unit when we bought it in June and we got a further £12 off because it was missing some tiny bits, easily replaced.

KwikFit will match any online price for tyres or batteries, although they don’t say so upfront, you should never pay more then £5 for dishwasher tablets since they drop every few weeks and Bailey’s slash their prices several weeks prior to Christmas so you can pick up the 1L bottles for less than £11 in Asda and Tesco, but you have to be sharp: they only remain at that level for a very short period, and the staff seem to buy most of them.

Large electrical appliance retailers are always willing to price match, so do the homework before buying then approach your favourite store. And finally, inspect any appliance with a magnifying glass and don’t hesitate to ask for compensation if there are scratches or even the odd dint. It’s much cheaper for them to knock something off the price that collect the item and replace it.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I’d like to see a shopping trolley comparison not only of national brands, but of own label brands included where they are tested as like for like. That is what I suspect most people buy.

Profile photo of DerekP
Member

When I used to bother buying brand new laptops, they were usually cheapest at the start of the summer – before most folk got interested in back to school/college items or Christmas presents.