Is it really a bargain? Be wise and resist unless you really need it.

Is it really a bargain?

Is it really a bargain? - Credit: PA

Sheena Grant’s Year of Thrifty Living

Bargains. We’re all on the hunt for them these days, whether it’s cashback offers, money off vouchers, half price sales or an old-fashioned haggle.

Time was, sales didn’t begin until Christmas finished. Not anymore. Christmas is still to come and we’ve already had more ‘sale’ days than we used to have in an entire year.

It’s an indicator of increased competition, rampant consumerism, the success of the marketing ploy and the power of retail spin. The trouble with modern-day bargains is, I suspect, that many of them aren’t bargains at all. My sister-in-law often quotes her father’s wisdom on this subject - a bargain is only a bargain if you get money off something you were going to buy anyway. I thought I’d got a bargain when I bought a sofa in a supposed half price sale a few years ago. Months later, however, the same ‘sale’ was still going. I don’t think it ever ended. I’d been duped. How can something be half price if it’s hardly ever been offered at the full price?

All too often these days, I fear, we allow ourselves to be beguiled by an ‘offer’ that isn’t what it appears to be. In fact, some of these offers are more like the modern day equivalent of the Sirens of Greek mythology, beautiful yet dangerous creatures who lured sailors to their doom on rocky coasts with enchanting music and sensual voices. By promising a kind of material nirvana they encourage us to spend more than is wise and shipwreck us on the rocks of debilitating debt.

Don’t underestimate the power of marketing to persuade you to buy something you hadn’t planned to and never take ‘offers’ at face value. In the aggressive world of big business there is often only one winner and chances are it won’t be you, because for many multi-nationals no amount of profit is ever enough.

Only a few days ago we were told that one of our biggest supermarkets had issued a “profit warning” - it was on course to make a maximum of £1.4bn, far below the £1.8bn to £2.2bn range expected by the markets. Shocking stuff, eh? Things are looking really dire on the balance sheet of that outfit.

Most Read

But that’s the reality of the system we’ve got.

The best we can hope for, as peak sale time approaches, is to be wise to it and resist. For all you’re worth.

• Email or tweet using #ThriftyLiving.