My Money, My Choices
Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a personal finance writer, television host and radio broadcaster. Every Wednesday, she arms Metro readers with tips to keep spending in check.
The dos and don'ts for holiday shopping: Vaz-Oxlade
If you want to make sure that you’re not spending more money than you have to, you'll need to do a little bit of leg-work.
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Some people are natural-born bargain hunters. Some people, not so much.
With the biggest shopping season upon us, it would behoove those of you who are more lackadaisical about your shopping to wise up.
If you want to make sure that you’re not spending more money than you have to, you need to do some leg-work and figure out who has the best deal. The internet has made the job of comparison-shopping more finger work than leg work. And with all that information online, it’s a no-brainer to do a little browsing before buying.
Don’t just look at prices. While that may eventually be what you’re going to focus on, you need to see it in the context of the quality you’re getting. Not all yoga pants, bed linens or cameras are created equal. You must first determine the level of quality you’re after before you drill down on price.
Do use price-comparison sites like Shopbot Canada, Nextag and ShopToIt to find what you’re looking for at the best price. Keep in mind that no one site will have everything, so you’ll need to spend some time doing the work to get the best deal.
Don’t let a name brand lull you into thinking you’re paying for quality. If you’re using a “name” as a security blanket you may be disappointed. Many products of similar quality are made in the same factories, with only name and packaging — and of course price — being different.
Do read the reviews. Take advantage of other buyers’ experiences and the research done by consumer agencies to get a leg up on your decision-making. Other shoppers may have done some homework for you, and reviews can be a huge time-saver in eliminating alternatives or adding to your “look at this” list.
Don’t buy more simply because you assume more means better value. This is one area where people are often surprised because they believe that bulk buys automatically save you money over economy-sized items. Do a unit for unit comparison.
Do keep an open mind. Some stores have limited quantities of items, but will give you a far better price than retailers that have a much bigger selection. And if you’re willing to move on some of the features you’re looking for, you may be able to get a better deal than if you go in with all your criteria locked and loaded.
Don’t assume the “discount stores” offer the best discounts. Some stores mark up their products before they mark them down again. When the ticket says, “compare at,” take it with a grain of salt. You should have a clear sense of what you would have to pay at full retail before heading off to the discount store so you don’t have to take their word for it.
Do remember that the season is about joy.
Don’t just buy stuff because you feel you have to give a gift. Think about what the person you love (or like) does, enjoys, appreciates and use that as your guide. If you can’t think of anything, you probably should just skip the gift-giving completely.