Financial stability is a goal we should all aspire to, and it is a lot more than just making a budget or saving early. Crucially, it is also a lot about prudence and keeping good spending habits.
Relying only on sheer willpower to hold back on a purchase and making that our only form of defence can often be ineffective. There are some quick and easy ways you can employ to cultivate stronger and better shopping habits. .
It doesn’t matter whether you are shopping for a gift, clothes or if your window shopping always turns into large purchases. Here are some tips to help you get more bang for your buck when it comes to shopping, and reduce the chances of buying unnecessary stuff.
1. Avoid temptations
When grocery shopping, or dining out, don’t do it when you’re hungry. That’s just setting yourself up to be in a vulnerable position because you’ll likely shop based on the lack in your stomach and end up buying more than you really need. Supermarkets are always filled with special deals and it can be tempting to buy the bigger box in the name of value, but often buying excess results in food that never gets touched until it’s expired.
Likewise, when it comes to electronics or fashion items like clothes, bags and shoes, some deals may be amazing but if you aren’t going to wear the same shirt in 10 different colours, then don’t buy them in bulk. Bulk may mean savings, but more isn’t always better.
There are other ways of putting yourself in a stronger position before going shopping, such as taking only the cash you need and not allowing yourself to sign off on purchases with a wave of the credit card.
You can also unsubscribe from marketing emails from your favourite brands and stores. They might be good for being in the know about promotions, but they can also be a temptation for compulsive shopping.
2. Figure out what you need to buy in advance so you can benefit from seasonal discounts
This is especially useful for gifting periods. For instance, if you have friends whose birthdays fall in January or February, then you’d be well placed to get their gifts during the end-of-year sales, or during promotional festivals like Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales. That way, you can benefit from discounts, or buy them more things on the same budget. Likewise, if there are products that you use regularly, such as toiletries or essentials around the house, you can benefit from big yearly sales that departmental stores have. Just be sure to take note of the manufactured or expiry date.
3. Know what you need to buy even before you hit the shops
According to researchers, as much as half of the purchases we make are unplanned. A large part of that is due to something called the Gruen effect – influencing consumer behaviour through a store’s layout and architecture.
Think about how many people go to IKEA with the intention of buying something, and end up getting several more by the time they make it to the checkout counter. IKEA is an example of a retailer that has mastered this psychological principle to boost its coffers.
It’s therefore very important to be ultra intentional and mindful when you hit the shops, in order to prevent yourself from buying unnecessary things or succumb to impulsive buys.
One way to do this is to prepare a list. Be clear of what you need, check your inventory at home, write it on your list and stay focused while you’re shopping. You’re on a mission and if you complete the mission well, you will end up with a credit card bill that you can actually stomach – not to mention not having to deal with clutter.
4. Look at the prices in the stores (online or physical) and check the prices on other competitors websites
I often find shampoos sold at the stores to be more expensive than on certain websites. In today’s age of e-commerce, the same can often be said about a lot of other products that we need and want.
For instance, a box of 25 Covid-19 ART test kits can be going for S$109 at the physical stores – and that is a promotional price. Online, however, the same product can be found for several dollars less, with free shipping to boot. It’s important to take note of any shipping or currency conversion fees when making your comparison. From 2023, there’s also the GST imposed on imported goods to consider.
Some sites lower their prices artificially to entice you, but you end up paying the same or more when the additional fees are included at checkout. Yet most of the time, you’ll find a competitor with a much more affordable price.
Alternatively, you can often find what you want at much better prices by looking in thrift stores. Thrift shopping has huge upsides, both for the environment and your pocket. You part with less money for daily necessities in mint condition, and you do your bit for sustainability at the same time. Find out where the best thrift shopping spots in Singapore are here.
5. Be strategic about when you shop
You don’t have to be a psychic to know when a sale starts. Here’s a quick tip – keep an eye on the store’s layout. Most stores usually arrange clothes by colour themes or by seasonal looks. This is a strategy designed to drag you deeper into the store.
However, a few days before a sale, these items get re-sorted by the type of items such as tops and bottoms. So if you notice this reshuffling, wait before making your purchase. In some cases, you might be allowed to reserve the items and come back for them in a few days when the sale kicks in.
While it’s good to know when to capitalise on a sale, it’s also helpful to know when you’re shopping for the wrong reason. Emotional spending means you’re likely to splurge for something you can’t afford, or don’t need – or both. Here are some tips to overcome this bad habit.
6. Trick online merchants into giving you discount codes for online shopping.
Merchants have mechanisms built in their websites to track that you were interested in certain items – especially if you add items to your shopping cart but don’t check out.
If you fail to finish your online order, these companies often send you discount codes or other offers to tempt you into coming back. Stores like Asos, Zalora and even local boutiques stores today do the same.
Here are the steps to try out:
Step 1. Sign in or sign up for an account.
Step 2. Add items into your shopping cart. Generally higher-value items work better for a bigger discount code.
Step 3. Leave the site.
Step 4. Check your email. You might just find a code or offer landing in your inbox the next few hours or up to 2 days.
Step 5. Log back in and use the code. Before you do that, make sure you’ve removed anything unwanted from your shopping cart before paying.
7. Try on your new clothes at home and strut around.
Return anything that doesnt bring you enough joy. We sometimes buy items online or in a store on a whim, but end up realising it doesn’t suit us. If you don’t love it, return it. The last thing we need is to end up with cheap, discounted items that we don’t want or need. A life bogged down by many frivolous purchases takes away from investing in the important things.
We hope these tips will help you to save more money. Keep track of your spending automatically with the help of Planner Bee’s automatic transaction categorisation capabilities. Compare your spending over the time while you learn and apply these tips.
8. Self-assess the unnecessary purchases you make or made
Some of us make regular payments for things that we might have needed at the start, but are no longer necessary but which we continue to shell out good money for.
These could be underused magazine subscriptions, costly club memberships, or even frivolous kitchen gadgets (banana slicer or hands-free ziploc bag holder, anyone?).
Sieving out the necessary from the pointless will help you cut down on dollars and cents here and there, and these definitely add up. Read about the pointless purchases we tend to make here.