Are “Bargain shops” sabotaging your budget?

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Last Updated on June 21, 2021 by Melissa S.

Are Bargain shops sabotaging your budget?

When I began my debt free journey, I cut my spending in a number of areas including clothes, make up and meals / nights out, and significantly managed to reduce my spending. Great, right?

Did I save money? Yes.

Did I become debt free? Yes.

Did I declutter my existing possessions,  make money by selling on unwanted items and begin to realise that spending money on endless “things” isn’t actually that great? Absolutely. And this is the main reason why these things are now habits I can happily exist on much less than I used to.

However, there is still one area of my life where I am aware I need to reel in my spending, because I have given myself a free pass for all of the above in them, and not only am I spending unnecessary money but I am accumulating items I simply don’t need. What makes me bypass all my own rules that I have followed so diligently?

Simple – The price.

I am of course, talking about bargain shops!

Home Bargains, B&M, Poundland et al. Who can honestly hold their hands up and say they went in for one bottle of bleach and didn’t come out with a basket full of wax melts, tea lights, and a unicorn notebook?

Don’t get me wrong, I love these shops and often I find absolute steals that are put to good use. But I have to hold my hands up and say the number of times I have bought something just because it is “a bargain” and then it goes unused is too many. And a bargain is only a bargain if it is useful to you, otherwise it just becomes unused clutter and a waste of money.

It’s true, the amount I spend in bargain shops is still far less than the cost of all the clothes, make up and other items I successfully cut back on, so you might be thinking what’s the harm? It’s only £10 or so wasted.

But small amounts definitely add up, and so do bits of clutter you simply don’t need or use. If you can relate to this point of view, you might want to adapt the strategy I have begun to use in order to reduce my spending in bargain shops.

What do you go in for?

If you have a tried and trusted list of things you always buy from bargain shops, begin by making a list of the things that are your regular purchases. It might seem a bit drastic to do this, but trust me! You might even want to split it up into the different shops you buy certain things from.

My list in summary would look something like this:

Ibuprofen / Cold & Flu Tablets – These are very cheap in bargain shops and I can’t tell any difference from branded products.

Cleaning Products – I write out each individual product on my list. Generally I have found most cleaning products to be cheaper in bargain shops than elsewhere.

Toiletries such as toothpaste, shower gel, make up sponges – again I would list each individual item.

Cereal bars and snacks – Often these will be cheaper than the supermarkets but I always check the pack size / weight to be sure.

Children’s toys – If we have a birthday party coming up I will always have a look for presents as you can get some fantastically discounted toys from mainstream brands such as Disney, Fisher Price, LOL and WWE to name a few. This also comes in handy for Christmas, of course.

bargain stores
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on

What do you actually need today?

Have a look at your list and highlight what you actually need. Without proper planning I have been known to spend money on certain cleaning products and then come home to find 3 of the same item in the cupboard!

Some people like to stock up but unless something is on for an amazing discount I don’t like to have more than 2 of each item in stock.

In the past I have definitely been guilty of buying some random cleaning product to give it a try, using it a few times then going on to something else for the same job. These days I try to have only 1 of each type of product on the go to cut down on clutter and waste.

composition of detergents on table
Photo by Anna Shvets on

What else am I on the lookout for? Is this the best place to buy it from?

There might be things you don’t necessarily buy regularly that you are wanting to buy, such as home décor items or seasonal products. This is where spending can go awry without proper planning! One of the reasons discount shops can keep their prices low is the stock is often end of line items that haven’t sold as well elsewhere.

Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean it is definitely worth buying. (Of course, when it IS worth buying that’s what makes the whole magic of the bargain shop experience!)

To give an example, I wanted an outdoor tablecloth for my garden table with a hole in the middle for the parasol. I was already in Home Bargains with a basketful of items and spied one for about £2.99. It wasn’t a design I would normally choose and it didn’t go with the rest of the garden things I had but hey, it’s only £2.99 right?

The result was an item I used about twice before realising I didn’t like it, and it looked cheap. So it is now unused clutter, and I ended up buying a more expensive one elsewhere.

Everything else

white and pink unicorn plush toy on bed
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Ok, so you might not have thought you needed a unicorn shaped cushion or a light up photo frame when you entered the shop, but at that price you are contemplating putting them into your basket…there are just a couple of things you need to ask yourself first:

Can I afford it? The likely answer to this will be yes, but if not, put it back immediately!

What is it for and when will it get used?

If it’s an ornament / decoration, where will it go?

Do I already have something similar to this? If so, do I need another? – We all have items we are drawn to like magpies – candles is a popular one. If you already have 5 large unused scented candles at home, it’s unlikely you need another one!

So there you have my bargain shops checklist – is there anything you would add to it?

What are your bargain shop essentials? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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Hi! I'm Melissa

I help busy mums like me become financially fitter without resorting to extreme “crash diet” measures.

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