Photo: Denis Ismagilov
It’s that time of the year again. The Great Singapore Sale (GSS) has come around, and with it come deals both great and mediocre.
It’s always been a blessing and a curse that GSS is unregulated. Any business can put up a GSS sign, and we won’t know if the sale is genuine or not. If you don’t want to get ripped off, avoid these bad shopping habits:
1. Assuming all discounts are real
When is a sale not a sale? It’s when a retailer marks up and item, and then just removes the markup during the GSS. For example:
Say a quilt retails for $79.90. This is the standard price, and it’s what you’d find if you bought it on Amazon or a less greedy store.
Sometimes, a retailer might mark it up to $99.90 (because in retail stores people tend to buy more impulsively, and without comparing prices). During the GSS, they might sell it at $79.90 and call it a sale. In reality the $20 reduction just means no markup.
You’re not buying an item on sale, you’re just buying it at the standard price.
2. Buying “discount” clothes that will be on clearance soon
Fashion boutiques have seasonal catalogues. The designs are replaced once a quarter, hence the regular clearance sales.
During the GSS, check if the clothes on sale are from the previous season’s catalogues. If you go to the brand’s website and and an outfit is not available / on show, it is probably last season’s.
You should buy something else that’s on offer, as it’s probable that older outfits will remain on sale even after the GSS.
3. Bulk buying everything
Just because things are bundled together, that doesn’t mean you’re saving money.
Before you bulk buy, consider if you will actually use everything in the package deal. For example, you may be able to bulk buy a whole carton of soft drinks at once – but do you actually drink that much?
If a six pack costs $5.90, and a carton of 24 cans costs $20, there’s no doubt the carton costs less per can. But if all you need are six cans, buying the carton isn’t saving you money – it’s just wasting $14.10.
Utility always comes before quantity. If you don’t need it, the best way to save is not to buy extra at all.
4. Shopping aimlessly and impulsively
It can be fun to walk around aimlessly and buy whatever gets your fancy. But if you are on a tight budget, that’s a good way to end up with impulse buys.
Just because the GSS is on, it doesn’t mean you won’t end up overspending – in fact it’s quite possible to bust your budget because of a sale, as you’ll make many assumptions about affordability.
Research prices online to find the best deals, and go out with a specific shopping list. Don’t get sidetracked by deals you never planned to take.
5. Buying because this is your one chance to get it on sale
If you think the GSS is your one shot at getting a good discount, you are almost certainly wrong.
Remember that the GSS is just one of many sales. Singapore is a retail haven where clearance sales and promotions happen all year round.
So the discounted laptop/necklace/bag etc. you’re seeing is almost certainly not your only chance to get it on sale. Retailers will drive you to buy by creating a sense of urgency, stating that the number of pieces left is limited, or that this is the only time it will be on sale. Don’t fall for it.
For electronics, remember that a variety of other events such as Comex will bring about future sale opportunities.
6. Charging everything to random debit or credit cards
Don’t charge your retail purchases to your petrol card, or use your MasterCard when a Visa would get you a bigger discount. Most debit or credit cards are optimised for specific purposes.
For example, the OCBC Robinsons Group credit card will get you a better deal at Marks & Spencer than most others (5% rebate on top of existing discounts). As a side bonus, you also get complimentary parking at relevant stores when you go shopping. This can save you almost S$10 in parking for most weekend shopping trips.
Another example is the ANZ Platinum Card, which gives you complimentary full-day weekend parking at Tang Plaza when you charge at least S$100 at TANGS, and 20X points for every S$1 spent at TANGS.
You can check SingSaver.com.sg to find cards that match your purchasing decisions. Comparing credit cards earns you even more rebates, air miles to redeem flight tickets, reward points for further discounts, and more.
7. Buying video games for your kids without checking prices online
These days, video game services like Steam have discounts all the time. These can be as steep as 75 per cent off for older games, and can be downloaded directly without having to buy a physical copy.
If your children see something they want (especially younger children), always check the online price first, whatever the GSS discount.
Due to the sheer extent of online discounts, it’s unusual for even a retailer’s discount bin to be cheaper.
8. Shopping with enabling friends
If you are trying to save money, the worst way to do it is to shop with friends who are enablers.
These are the ones who encourage you to give into impulse buying, because they want an excuse to buy as well. If you both know a $450 winter jacket is a complete waste of money, even if it looks pretty…well, it won’t feel as bad if both of you buy it.
Text your thrifty friends if you need a shopping companion.
9. Buying on credit
Only use a credit card so you can maximise rebates or points (see Point 6). If you use your card, ensure you can repay the full amount before the next billing cycle to avoid the high interest rate (around 24 per cent per annum).
If you must buy something that you cannot pay off at once, consider a credit card with an interest-free instalment plan or a personal loan.
Overall however, we suggest that you avoid using loans at all. These should only be used for crucial needs (like an education loan), and not for retail shopping.
10. Buying overpriced peripherals
Some stores make up for the GSS discount by marking up peripherals. An example would be selling you a camera at a discounted base price, but then selling the lenses at a higher markup.
This can happen with almost any kind of product. For example, hair care products might offer a steep sale on one particular product (just the shampoo), but you will then be upsold on complementary products like special conditioners or scalp treatment creams. These additional products may even be more expensive than usual.
When purchasing, keep your eye on the dollar amount of the final bill. Don’t be sidetracked into focusing on one or two items that are discounted.
11. Assuming the discount stays the same throughout GSS
We suggest you take your time, and wait til the last few days before a GSS shopping binge. This is because many retailers see the GSS as a means to clear out older items as well.
As the GSS wears on and they fail to remove these products, the discounts may actually grow. So a 10 per cent discount at the start of the GSS may well become a “final day 20 per cent off” discount toward the last week.
If the product is just a “nice to have”, consider waiting. You might bag a real bargain after all.
This article was first published on SingSaver.com.sg, a financial comparison site that provides tips and advice on saving money in Singapore.