Liam Croke: My mother’s golden rules for sensible shopping

Have you bought anything in the last couple of months, that you regretted paying for? If you have you are not alone, because in a survey carried out recently it was discovered that two thirds of people buy something on impulse each month and 71% of them regret having done so. The most regretted purchases are clothes, shoes, toys for children, technology-based products and home décor items.

Have you bought anything in the last couple of months, that you regretted paying for? If you have you are not alone, because in a survey carried out recently it was discovered that two thirds of people buy something on impulse each month and 71% of them regret having done so. The most regretted purchases are clothes, shoes, toys for children, technology-based products and home décor items.

Impulse purchases can really hurt your finances, because the majority of them are bought with other people’s money (OPM) i.e. using a credit card which takes years to repay in full. Just as bad if it makes you go into your overdraft – the interest charged on either is incredibly high.

The advice I’m going to give you, which I hope will prevent you from impulse shopping, is not rocket science. Neither is it something I have read about – it’s just common sense that I have learned and observed from my Mum. I have watched her over the years and she has a number of rules that she lives by and thankfully has passed on to me. The great thing is they work and they are huge money-savers.

The first thing she does is to make a list. When you make a list, you go to the shop, go down the aisles, pick up what is on the list and get out only spending what you had planned to. Without a list, you get side-tracked and lost. You meander around the shop, picking up anything that looks good, buying two for one offers (when you don’t even need the one!) so you end up with items that you don’t really need.

The next piece of advice my Mum has passed on to me is to work the phones. If I am travelling for business and I need to book a hotel room, renew my home or car insurance or whatever it is, I work the phones as hard as I can. Why? Because that is what my mother used to do. I know from observing her that by taking the time to call around for whatever reason saves money. Last month, my wife worked the phones for 25 minutes and she saved €1,200 reducing our health insurance renewal. She called our existing company (VHI) and asked them were we on the right plan etc. and we weren’t – 10 minutes later we were on the right one and we saved €900 in the process. Thank you very much for doing this for us, VHI – we will be back to you shortly to confirm our renewal.

The next phonecall was to GloHealth – 10 minutes later they had matched the plan type we had with VHI and reduced the cost VHI were quoting by €300. Thank you Glo, we’ll be back to you shortly. Next phonecall – back to VHI. Five minutes after explaining that Glo would beat their quote by a further €300, VHI agreed to match it.

In that, 25 minutes working the phone, my wife, Roseann, saved €48 for every minute she was on the case.

Here’s another piece of advice which again is just a rock of common sense – wait a day, or sleep on it. The next time you’re in a store and you want to buy a pair of shoes, phone, golf clubs or whatever, just stop and think – do you really need to buy? Would new golf clubs make you play better? Maybe golf lessons would be better value for your money?

How many bags in black do you actually have? Do you need another? If you’re considering buying something and you’re not quite sure whether you should or not, put the purchase on hold – your gut is telling you something and you should listen to it. If, the following day, you absolutely want to buy whatever it is, then do it, but I know 90% of the time after sleep and reflection you will be glad you didn’t get it the previous day.

A friend told me how, in a moment of madness, he bought a treadmill. He used it for about two weeks and now it’s a clothes horse.

Here’s one last piece of advice – and this one doesn’t come from my Mum, but from the character Penny in The Big Bang Theory sitcom. Her boyfriend, Leonard, received a present of a blanket from her. He asked what it meant and she replied that “drink and TV shopping don’t go together”.

In the UK research was carried out earlier this year which showed that 25% of people, when drunk, admitted to spending more than they should have online. The average amount spent online whilst under the influence was £142 and one in ten admitted to spending more than £500 when tipsy. The majority of spending takes place on Amazon (53%) with eBay not far behind. The key time for drunk shopping, apparently is between 11pm and 1am. And eBay says its busiest time is between 6.30pm and 10.30pm

Clothes are the number one drunken purchase, with the other big ticket items being holidays (18%) and electronic items like TVs and phones (6%). And get this: 20% of those questioned in the same survey said they couldn’t remember what they had bought when they woke up the next morning.

These are examples of real purchases made by people when they were drunk – a ukulele, a lifetime’s worth of Dettol, a rug depicting the face of Saddam Hussein, an electronic vegetable peeler and my favourite – a horse face mask.