The season of spending is upon us. For most of the next month, our wallets are going to be sucked dry by bad Santa and fattening festive foods.
This year is different to most Christmas seasons we've experienced in our lives. It comes after months of lockdown, which have made many hungry to spend, to treat ourselves and our loved ones.
Usually, I'd be advising extreme vigilance against Santa's evil helpers. Retail has had it hard this year, however. So there is some forgiveness emanating from my wallet.
But be warned, things are going to cost more this year. Inflation is running at 5 per cent, which means many prices have gone up. And the pandemic experience has softened all us consumers up to expect to pay more for nearly everything. It's like anyone can drop in the words "supply chain" and we go: "oh, okay then" and cough up whatever the price tag is. That's overlayed on retailers' usual mind games to get us to spend.
Always ask yourself if you really need whatever it is you're buying. I often find I don't need it, especially if I delay the purchase.
If you do need that item, the best way to not over-pay, says PriceSpy's New Zealand country manager Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, "is not to panic buy". That's how sale days such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day work. People assume that they're seeing a bargain and grab it.
The Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales finish tomorrow. Don't worry if you've missed them, you'll probably buy the item cheaper in the next few weeks. PriceSpy's newly released data from last year's Black Friday sale shows that many sale items are not a bargain, says Matinvesi-Bassett.
"What we see in our data from last year's Black Friday, is that the most popular products (such as iPhones and PlayStations) are not the cheapest on Black Friday. We found that 60 per cent of the most popular products could be purchased for less outside of Black Friday."
PriceSpy found that 1 in 10 products had the price hiked in the days or weeks leading to Black Friday. Six out of 10 of the most-popular products shoppers were looking to buy on Black Friday last year could be purchased for less in the months leading up to the sales day, says Matinvesi-Bassett. That also happens on other sale days.
Sometimes the price is raised in the weeks leading up to the sale day so that the sale looks impressive. If done right it's sneaky but usually legal.
Truly fake sales breach the Fair Trading Act, providing you're buying from a local retailer or e-tailer. A fake sale is where goods are advertised as being reduced from a certain price, say $500 to $350, when the seller's usual price is $350.
Just how cheeky some retailers can be with the advertising hit home to me when I needed to buy a hair product earlier this month. I found myself saying: "I must wait until I can go to the Chemist Warehouse."
Google immediately started showering me with "Cheaper @ Chemist Warehouse" adverts for that exact product. Creepy or what?
Knowing I was writing this article I checked the prices every time that advert assailed me over a two-week period. It turned out that New World, Countdown, The Warehouse and Kmart were all cheaper than the Chemist Warehouse every time I looked. This isn't a product that you're likely to be buying for Christmas. But it just goes to show.
Whatever you're buying, do the price research. Check competitors and then the price history, which should help. Sites such as PriceSpy and PriceMe allow you to set up price alerts. I did that for my latest mobile phone purchase earlier this year and waited until it dropped $100, which didn't take long.
Be smart and mind your dollars and cents this Christmas.