Even though you may think you're a smart shopper, almost everyone gives in to these five common shopping mistakes at some point. Whether you're grocery shopping when you're hungry, or making big purchases without doing your homework, there are many pitfalls that consumers fall into when spending their hard-earned dollars.
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics-Introduction
Not Using Coupons
Coupons are available for a wide variety of products for both traditional brick-and-mortar stores and online merchants. If you're a frequent purchaser of certain products, it's probably worth your while to check for coupons. Many manufacturers offer coupons online that can be printed and brought into the store, or coupon codes that can be used on their websites. Be bargain savvy and spend a little bit of time searching for coupons and coupon codes online. You can also watch your newspaper for coupons or promotions, and some stores even post coupons in their stores. Online coupon codes are commonly offered for higher-priced items as well. Some online merchants might list a coupon code on the front page, or the sale section of their website. It's wise to check before making any online purchases, because you might be able to save yourself a fair chunk of change. (For additional reading, check out: Coupon Shopping: Clip Your Way To Savings.)
Not Taking Advantage of Free Shipping
Many online merchants offer free shipping on orders that have reached a certain dollar value. Merchants like Amazon.com offer this incentive, and because the required value of your order isn't generally that high, you really only have to purchase a couple of items in order to qualify. Though you definitely shouldn't purchase items you don't need, to make the quota, there could be occasions where opting to pay the shipping charge might actually push the total price of your order above the minimum amount you'd have to spend on merchandise in order to qualify for free shipping. Also, when you buy online, you're saving money on gas since you don't have to drive around from store to store, further adding to your savings. In these circumstances, it might be best to order your cousin's birthday present at the same time so that you're eligible for the discount. Just be careful to read the fine print so you know the terms and conditions of the offer, especially for international orders.
Buying Something Without Trying It On
Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and clothing manufacturers know this. Since this is an undeniable fact, it's pretty silly to buy a clothing item without first trying it on. There's no guarantee how it will fit once you get home and go to wear it. If you don't mind the inconvenience of having to go back to the store to return the item, this is a relatively simple mistake to remedy. There's always a risk that some people won't actually return the item at all. This is a pretty silly mistake that essentially adds up to throwing away your money. Keep in mind that not all stores have the same policies when it comes to returns. Some items, like swimsuits, cannot be returned, and some stores have a policy of only providing customers with store credit on returned items. If you purchased an item on sale, there is a chance that the store won't take any form of return on it. It's probably far less of a hassle to just try the garment on before you leave the store, even if it seems inconvenient at the time.
If you like to purchase clothing items online, it's not really possible to try them on before purchasing, however, you should definitely familiarize yourself with the return policy before hitting the "buy now" button. If you have to pay shipping to return or exchange the items, the cost of buying online might be a lot more than you expected.
Buying Counterfeit Items
The types of counterfeit items that can be found is broad, with everything from fake Rolex watches, to designer handbags, medications, artwork, shoes, athletic gear, CDs and DVDs. Given the exorbitant costs associated with some luxury brands, it's not surprising that some people have chosen to purchase counterfeit items to keep up with the trends. However, saving some cash on these goods might come with unwanted consequences. First off, counterfeit items are usually of inferior quality. Also, many counterfeit items have links to organized crime in the countries in which they're produced. So, by purchasing these items you are essentially supporting criminals. Additionally, there is no way of knowing that these items are actually safe. Counterfeit medications or cosmetic products might contain harmful chemicals, or counterfeit purses, shoes and clothing may have been colored with harmful or toxic dyes. Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons for avoiding counterfeit items is the fact that it's illegal to purchase or own them.
Every country has different rules on this, and some countries issue huge fines to individuals who are in possession of counterfeit goods. If you plan to do any international traveling, it's probably wise to ensure you're not in possession of anything that's not authentic.
Buying Something Just Because It's on Sale
Sure, that pair of shoes might be 50% off, but do you really need them? Buying something just because it's on sale is a pitfall that many consumers fall into. "Spaving" is a term that has been used to describe these types of irrational purchases where you spend money unnecessarily in order to save money. A good way to avoid this type of pitfall is to clearly define your needs versus your wants. You might want the shoes that are on sale, but do you need them? If you buy them, are you likely to use them? If you were in the mall specifically looking for shoes, then this might be a wise shopping decision. However, if you just found them while casually perusing the stores, then there's a chance that buying this sale item might simply be emotional, or impulse spending, which can ultimately lead to debt.
The Bottom Line
Almost everyone makes poor purchasing decisions from time to time. However, the magnitude of these poor decisions can have a direct impact on your financial situation. If you're purchasing cheap knock-offs, that are poorly made and will require frequent replacement, or may even lead to huge fines if you're caught with them in your possession, then it's hardly a cheap solution compared to purchasing the authentic article. Also, purchasing sale items that you're not likely to use is silly, but on the other hand, it's also silly not to take advantage of good bargains like coupons or free shipping when these perks are available. Ask yourself if you really need the item you're buying, and then consider if the item is truly a good price. If you're unsure that you really need the item you're considering, try sleeping on it. If you still want that great pair of shoes the next day, there's a good chance you'll end up making good use of them. If you've forgotten about them, then you did the right thing by walking away.
(For additional reading, check out: Is Coupon Clipping A Waste Of Time?)