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For most twenty-somethings, a retail job is a rite of passage and an opportunity to see (occasionally) the peak and (most often) the pit of mankind. In particular, my time in retail has bestowed upon me two invaluable skills (a) the ability to momentarily turn into the Flash and clear a rail of put-aways in about ten minutes and (b) a real spidey-sense when it comes to understanding how sales work and how to make them work for me.
I am by no means an impulse buyer. I like to sit on a purchase (and watch it disappear from my cart a couple of times) before I finally commit and hit ‘buy now.’ So when it comes to making bigger purchases, like a laptop for uni, a new pair of Birkenstocks, or upcoming birthday or Christmas presents, I like to do my research to make sure that I am getting the best possible deal and working the sales to my advantage (instead of the other way round).
These tips are important for making the most of sales on things you are already planning on buying - and not things you don’t need. Here’s a not so fun fact - people who only shop the sales tend to spend more money than people who don’t shop on sale. So make sure you use these tips for good (not evil) and don’t fall into the psychological trap of buying things just because they are on sale.
Know What You are Shopping For… And Where to Get It
When it comes to making big purchases, I like to plan ahead. When I was due for a new iPhone, I waited until (a) the newest model came out so I could get the previous model for cheaper and (b) for the Black Friday sales to begin, because when the big sales hit, Apple tend to do a voucher scheme - I was able to use my gift card to get a case for the phone basically for free. The following year, when I wanted to get Doc Martens to replace the ones my dog had eaten (much to my anguish and dismay), I also waited for Black Friday. I spent the week leading up to the sale looking at different stores to see, firstly, which stores had the style and size I wanted (I also tried them on in person), and secondly, to understand what kind of sale they were going to be running on the day so I knew where I would get the most bang for my buck.
So when it comes to Christmas shopping, for example, start planning early. Make a list (and budget) of what you want to get people and where to get it. This can also apply to things you really need - like sneakers, a Dyson or a new computer - and keep an eye out for these big ticket sale days.
Understand Your Sales
If you want to be a smart sales shopper,, it is important to be familiar with the type of sales you are looking at. Black Friday tends to focus on offering some kind of discount on full price items, whereas Boxing Day is more of an end of season sale, consisting almost entirely of further mark-downs. This means that if you are wanting to buy something that basically never goes on sale (like polaroid cameras and Birkenstocks), Black Friday is your friend. Boxing Day is a great opportunity to snap up older models or styles which are being cleared to make room for new (like kitchen appliances, televisions and winter coats).
It is here that it is important to be familiar with where you want to shop - stores tend to repeat similar kinds of sales, whether it be “buy one, get one half price,” “20% off store wide” or “spend [X] and get [X] as a voucher.” Find the sale that works most for your goals. For example, if you are buying multiple Christmas presents from a store with a voucher scheme, consider if it is better to split the transaction. This way you can use the voucher earned from the first present on the second (instead of being tempted to buy yourself something you don’t need later on). Splitting the transaction can also be handy on “buy one, get one” sales to make sure the discount is applying to the more expensive items.
Earn Back What You Shop
In 2018, I downloaded the Raiz investment app. One of the best (and little advertised features) of Raiz is the reward scheme which gives you cash back into your Raiz account. In two years, I have earned $60 in rewards, largely from Christmas presents brought from brands like the Iconic, Lululemon and Booktopia. Having schemes like Raiz Rewards and Shopback operating in the background for bigger purchases can make a massive difference to your savings (or investment) over time.
Do You Really Need That Warranty?
In Australia, we are fortunate to have a very comprehensive consumer law (ACL). One of the best things about the ACL is that consumers are offered protection when they purchase goods which end up needing repairs for up to two years depending on the item. So it is very important to consider whether it is really necessary to get that additional warranty. Apple and ‘Apple Care’ is one of the biggest brands that come to mind. Unless damage to your appliance is your own fault (ie smashed screens and water damage), Apple will fix malfunctioning devices for up to two years after the purchase date (and then there is an additional two years on that new part they replaced). Therefore, unless you are extremely accident prone, you can save yourself a couple hundred dollars by choosing to rely on the ACL.
Consider Shopping Online
Lastly, when you know exactly what you are buying, you can avoid the madness of the crowds (and practise social distancing) by shopping online. Shopping online may also offer the benefit of additional discounts like sign-up bonuses (you can send it to your junkmail later) and even Unidays!.
And Remember - Shopping The Sales Is No Substitute For Supporting Small Business!
First written and published on 4 May 2021