Thrifty Living: I can help you spot the bargains that turn into rip-offs

Way back in more innocent times, a purchase was a purchase. Even a discounted one. If you wanted a bargain, you sought it out and lo! it arrived, and you had the thrill of knowing that what you got was truly a money-saver.

Nowadays, things are a bit more complicated. If you want to cut down on the bottom line – and, in our credit-crunchy days, who doesn't – you have to have a Mastermind contestant-like grip on your transactions. At all times. Otherwise, what you will be handed is a great big rip-off. In my experience, rip-offs masquerading as bargains include the following:

1) "Pre-theatre" dinners, where the expected (and advertised) bill of £20 for dinner for two magically becomes a crippling £46 when the bill arrives. Silly you! You forgot to factor in the bread, mineral water and a "cover charge" – all not included in the bewitching offer.

2) Cheap travel tickets bought online that allow absolutely no latitude for human failings, acts of God etc. This week, I went to East Anglia to interview Louis de Bernières of Captain Corelli fame. Very pleasant it was too. I bought my train tickets two days prior to the journey, online; £12 each way, a bargain. Only my outward train was delayed because the brakes broke. I was therefore late for my stipulated return train and caught the next one, half an hour later. Hardly a problem, and certainly not my fault. Furthermore, as this was a mid-afternoon train trundling through Suffolk, it was about 10 per cent full. But hey ho, these modern times require up-to date policies. As I had not caught the exact train stipulated by my £12 ticket, it was rendered invalid by One trains. "Thirty-nine pounds please," said the ticket inspector with relish. Why? Why did I have to buy another ticket when I was holding one in my hand for the day and journey in question? How can a replacement ticket for exactly the same service justify this huge increase? Because the company says so. I didn't give him the satisfaction of a row, but handed over my credit card, seething and pretending not to care.

3) So-called loyalty cards. "Have you got a Nectar card?" says the person at the till. "No," I say. What I do not say is: "And I never will have one, because they are a total rip-off." Nectar! The name implies a naturally sourced delight. The reality, my friend, is that a Nectar card, or any of its many rivals, will encourage you to buy all sorts of unnecessary stuff to build up points. After about half a century, you venture to cash in your points. Sucker! All you are qualified to purchase is half a bottle of Liebfraumilch, or a pair of driving gloves, or a plant pot. Nectar cards; they are the Green Shield Stamps de nos jours, and we all know what a bargain those little gems were.

4) Waitrose. Fairly obvious, this. Waitrose presents buying three cartons of juice for a fiver as a tip-top bargain. That is about the only thing of value you will find within these walls. Oh, there's heaps of lovely food, but no bargains. Waitrose is the only part of the John Lewis Partnership where the famous "never knowingly undersold" slogan obviously does not apply, as this food can be undersold everywhere bar Harrods Food Hall.

5) Telephone, broadband and cable "bundles". Inordinately complicated with a mesmerising array of money-saving "tariffs" that look fantastic on a poster outside the shop – but once said bundle is bundled into your house, your bill is inexplicably larger than ever. How can this be? Could it be because you are daring to use your phone during the hours of daylight?

6) Wire baskets at Boots. Empty and stacked, they seem innocent enough. But, as an executive from Procter & Gamble told me at the Baftas (I know, my life!), these baskets have a purpose. Procter & Gamble call it something like "positive" shopping. I call it a drifting intent to buy, armed with basket. You simply wander up and down the aisles slinging in Procter & Gamble products such as Nicky Clarke hair gel and Vaseline lipsalve and that must-have Boots No 17 anti-wrinkle cream. Before you know it, you've racked up £30. Entering "best value" Boots with no list and a basket – fatal.

And so it's lists from now on. Lists, and better time-keeping, and close reading of the small print, and a determined vigilance to beat the shops, internet ticket providers, telephone companies and the rest of the wily bunch at their own game.

cash@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

    £350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

    HR Business Analyst, Bristol, £350-400pd

    £350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

    Account Manager - (Product & Account Management, Marketing)

    £26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Account Manager - (Produc...

    Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried