When A Shopping Bargain Isn't A Bargain

You know what a false economy is right? It is where you buy something cheap thinking you're going to save cash, but actually it turns out to be so rubbish you end up spending more overall. I know we've all made these sorts of blunders so this week I spent some time talking to parents I know, other parents at the school gates and of course our wonderful PlayPennies parents, to find out if I could learn from their mistakes.

Here's a classic example. When trading down to a small push-chair, my friend Katrina got a stroller that only cost £20. Except that the wheels didn't turn to the left or right! They only went straight ahead. After two weeks of fighting with it, trying to insist it was all OK, she finally agreed that it had to go into the bin. And bought one that did turn for £40. So overall that supposed £20 saving turned out to be a total waste of cash.

I can't laugh at Katrina though, becuase I know I've made plenty of mistakes like that myself. When it comes to my weekly grocery shopping though it feels like this is a pitfall I'm constantly facing. Is that Basics or no-brand version a money saver or a false economy?

So, if you've not already been tempted, here's what you should avoid if you want to save the pennies.

Dishwashing sponges

I do this time and time again. I just can't seem to learn! Maybe you can get ten sponges for a pound at the PoundWorld shop. But if those sponges only last a day or two it really doesn't work out cheaper than buying a pack of three for a pound at Sainsburys where they'll last a week each, and still won't be worn out so when they're not hygenic enough for washing dishes, you can still use them for cleaning the bath, and finally for the loo.

"I bought some cheap sponges, and they just disintegrated! One of them actually fell apart in my hands as I was washing the dishes," complains PlayPennies mum Joanna.

If you can crochet what about making your own? Yes indeed the picture above shows the Big Girl Dish Scrubby, the pattern for which can be found on Laura Laliberte's Tales and Yarns blog.

Bin Bags

Those rolls of super cheap bin bags also turn out to be super thin. PlayPennies dad of three David is particularly tired of the ones for tall bins. "Maybe it is OK if you just have a little rubbish bin, but I have just chucked a roll of these out! It just seemed easier - in the end I was lining the bin with three of them. Otherwise it was like they just exploded as I pulled them out. The mess! Slimy potato peelings everywhere, and where does that scungy brown sludge come from? I don't remember eating that!"

Cheap Shoes

I'm not talking about school shoes here. I would hope that no-one would scrimp on the shoes that children spend most of the day in. But what about for yourself? Or maybe some cheap children's sandals or sparkly shoes for going out? A month ago I was going to a wedding and didn't want to splurge on shoes. I spotted a pair in a bargain bin at one of those el cheapo shoe shops (in the bargain bin at a shoe shop that already at sold bargain basement prices? What WAS I thinking?) for a fiver and thought, they'll do. Low heels, with a strap at the back, and plain black. Couldn't really go wrong, right? They utterly crippled me and that was just walking to the car, and from the car to the door of the venue! I had a pair of flat boots with me for the trip home and ended up wearing them with my lovely dress. Really, really not worth it. The shoes went straight in the bin without being worn. It might only be £5, but would you throw a fiver straight in the bin? Effectively, that's pretty much what I did.

Washing Up Liquid

Looking at that bargain basement bottle for 60p? Well just don't. Walk away now. I've been there, done that, and bought the bottle. It was the same size as a Fairy liquid bottle, but lasted me just a week. Yes that's right, one week. You know how that advert goes? "I hardly ever buy Fairy liquid"? Well, it is a rare instance of marketing truth and not hype. Every now and again, I'm totally cash strapped and lacking in washing up liquid and bought one. Frankly now I would rather save the 60p and do the washing up for a couple of days in biological washing powder or shampoo!

PlayPennies mum Fiona would also add fabric conditioner to the list of pet hates when it comes to money wasting groceries. "Concentrated fabric softener, that comes with the unhelpful direction 'One capful is more than enough'. It's so thick that if you pour half a capful, most of it stays in the cap. So you pour more into the drawer, and it stays there."

Paper towels

This category also includes cheap toilet paper and boxes of tissues. I very nearly didn't put paper towels on here actually, as I don't use them myself. Instead I use jay-cloths and old muslin cloths for cleaning, mopping up liquids, and soaking up the grease from fatty foods like bacon. However, every single parent I talked to cited cheap paper towels as a false economy mistake.

Mum to two boys (and lots and lots of spills) Lisa put it like this "Paper towels - the cheap ones don't work and you use a ton to do the work of one good one. Same for cheap toilet paper and kleenex-style tissues."

What's Yours?

What should we have included? What have you spent money on when grocery shopping that turned out to be a huge fat waste of dosh, or worse, ended up costing you more in the long run? We want to know!


  • Jerec
    PlayPennies dad of three David needs a recycling bin for old potato skins, then he won't get that stink stuff in his waste bin.
  • LynleyOram
    ha ha I just told him that! And he says that his council has (finally) introduced food/organic recycling. So maybe he can start using cheapo bin liners after all? I'm really annoyed though as I totally failed to take my own advice and just tried to use some so-called rugged black bin bags, that are meant to be for heavier waste, for rubble and stuff from the garden and it exploded when I picked it up. Hadn't even filled the bag that much. I think maybe it was a really old roll? The rest of them just crumpled too. Why don't I learn?
  • Jerec
    Bin bags are the bane of my life, cheap thin and the bottom just falls out of them when I take then out, should be a law that they have to be a certain thickness!

What do you think?

Your comment