If we had a penny for every time someone has made a money saving offer that wasn't too good to be true, we'd most likely be penniless.
Spoiler alert: the best way to save money is by not spending it. Which, in terms of advice, is about as practical as pointing out you'll lose weight if you starve. So what about all the other money saving bargains we keep reading about and, spot the irony here, sold on a regular basis?
Here's a little test to get you warmed up. Which one of these is the better deal? a) Buy two, get one free, or b) Buy one, get one free! The answer is: neither. While focusing on the 'free', it escaped our notice that the opening gambit here is 'buy'.
Let's have a look at all other money saving offers out there and see which ones are ploys and which ones may just be worth deploying after all.
MYTH 1: Buy Now, Pay Later
The Ploy: See this latest must-have product that you can't afford? You can have it now, for free. In a year or so, when you're bound to have more money, you can pay it off, and how cool is this? You don't have to pay it all off in one go, but in small, manageable monthly instalments.
The Truth: The problem with stuff is that a year down the line, it's no longer shiny and new, yet you're stuck having to pay for it. And damn it, you haven't become a millionaire in the interim. So you start paying the small amount and get used to paying it and by the end of the two years or so paying it off, they've just creamed off almost a third more than you'd have originally paid. And if you don't know what happens if you miss a payment, you've never had to queue for a payday loan...
The Solution: Save up for it. If you're still prepared to hand over your hard earned cash by the time you've got enough, you'll know you really want it. Plus chances are, it'll have gone down in price by then.
MYTH 2: It's The Sale Of The Century!
The Ploy: A store you only dare venture into on payday armed with all the willpower you can muster is offering an unprecedented once-in-a-lifetime chance to purchase their goods at prices that have been slashed!
The Truth: Consumerism preys on those who aspire to be part of something richer, and the sale is a sure-fire way to lure them in with the message 'you better buy as much as you can now because tomorrow you won't be able to afford it again but everyone will think you can because you're wearing it today!' So you spend way beyond your reach. Remember, a discount holiday in Neckar Island is still way more expensive than where you were planning to go.
The Solution: If you've got your heart set on something, do a little research to see how much you can get a satisfactory alternative elsewhere. These deals thrive on 'get it now or it's gone', but don't let the panic of missing out rule your decision.
MYTH 3: It Pays To Spend With Cashback!
The Ploy: You're spending anyway, how sweet of them to give you some of that money back as a way of saying thank you. You literally get paid to shop!
The Truth: To feel the benefits of this apparently selfless offer, you're obliged to spend more to meet the minimum spending requirements. If all you need to spend is another £20 to reach that limit, it feels worth it to get at that 'free money'. Except it's not free, it's not even that much, and it just cost you £20.
The Solution: Spend what you need to spend on. Don't spend more for the sake of it.
MYTH 4: Coupons Get You Dream Deals
The Ploy: Haven't you always dreamed of laying in a hot tub with four friends drinking champagne in a luxury hotel? You can now experience this at half the price!
The Truth: No, you've never had that dream. Nor have your friends. None of you have heard of this hotel. The problem with coupons is that you're offered deals that are never tailor made for you and therefore bound to be lacking something you want. And then you log onto the website and see the extras don't cost that much and before you know it, you've ended up spending more than you would have anyway. On something you didn't want in the first place.
The Solution: There are some coupons that are good deals, like the 'get £5 off your next purchase'. Use those. If you remember to before the expiry date. Which you won't.
MYTH 5: The More You Buy, The Cheaper It Gets
The Ploy: Instead of coming back to our shop and giving us more money, the promotion sign winks at you, buy what you'll need next week now, for cheaper. What kind of fool would say no to that?
The Truth: Anyone who's ever emptied the fridge, that's who. Fact is, promotions are generally offered on cheap products anyway, so you run the risk of getting something that's not as good as what you were after, and then being lumbered with a lot of it. Cheap but useless is worse than more expensive but actually works.
The Solution: Whenever you see non-perishable basic products like bin-liners or cling-film that you've tried and tested being offered at bulk prices, knock yourself out.
MYTH 6: Sign Up, Get Everything
The Ploy: If you want just the one thing, it costs this much. Two things, double that. But subscribe and you get the whole package for a matter of pennies!
The Truth: The problem with low-cost bundles, especially ones that say you can use this for free on four different devices, is that it never ceases to look like a good deal at an affordable price. So you never cancel. Whether you use them or not. And it's not like they don't make the cancellation process so complicated it just doesn't seem worth the hassle for the sake of saving £6 or so. Except it adds up, along with all the other things you've subscribed to.
The Solution: Only subscribe to what you know you'll definitely use. Cancel when you realise you don't.
New banking app B, powered by Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank, boasts a host of clever tools that can give you a hand saving for a host of goals. Indeed, as B learns more about your spending habits, it'll look ahead and predict how the end of your month might work out.