Simon Read: Beware of buying just because the retailer says it's a bargain

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With Christmas approaching, shops have been getting themselves into something of a frenzy this week hoping to attract us all in to spend our hard-earned cash on things we probably can't afford.

Yesterday was designated Black Friday in an attempt to recreate the retail fever that hits the US at this time of year. But in reality it's not a day to snap up bargains, it's a day for retailers to clear their shelves of dodgy old products.

Flogging them to us on the pretence that they're doing us a favour by offering rock-bottom prices is a very old shopping trick. Sure, there are real bargains to be had, but only if you're buying stuff you planned to buy and it happens to be available at a discount.

I always laugh at people who buy something that's half price at, say, £50 and then state proudly, "I saved £50". I simply point out that they spent £50, so, unless they actually did plan to buy the thing in the first place, they are actually £50 worse off.

But falling prey to such cheap retailer tricks is no laughing matter for those whose spending spirals out of control because they've been encouraged to "buy now before they're all gone".

A survey published this week suggested that almost half of us won't be able to pay for Christmas this year out of our wages. Many will dip into savings, which is fine as they're there for the good things, as well as being a fallback for emergencies.

But around one in four will borrow – on a credit card, overdraft or even from friends or family – to pay for Christmas. That's a dangerous road to go down.

twitter: @simonnread

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