How to Spot a Bargain That Isn’t as Good as It Seems

Buy two, get one free, ten for $10, four for the price of three — do these deals sound familiar? Grocery stores advertise all sorts of deals based on a bigger discount for buying more of the same product. While it sounds alluring, does this practice really end up saving you more? A recent study by the Guardian suggests that many supermarket multi-buy deals are actually no better than the regular price.

A yearlong Which? investigation found that many major grocery chains increase shelf prices of products before advertising them as discounted multi-buys. For instance, one supermarket was selling a certain brand of pizza for £1, but upped the regular price to £2.50 when it turned into a two-for-£4.50 multi-buy deal.

About one in ten supermarket items increase in price during multi-buy promotions, then decrease again when the sale is over. The consumer group described some of the deals as “plain daft” since they left shoppers worse off than if they made the same purchase at the regular price.

“We went around supermarkets and found packets of sweets that were 34p each or four for £3,” said Which?.

Ian Murray, the shadow consumer minister, says: “There is a risk that people, particularly families who may be reliant on these sorts of multi-buys, are being ripped off.”

While this investigation brought to light some unfortunate practices by local grocers, there are some deals out there that are worthwhile. How can you tell the difference between the two? Take a look at the tips below to ensure that you are truly getting the best deal on your groceries.


  • Compare regular prices across different stores or with online retailers to identify instances of grocers raising the baseline price.
  • Consider the shelf life of the item you are purchasing. If it’s non-perishable, it could certainly be worth it knowing it can be used at any time. If it is perishable, opt to buy what you need rather than what the deal is for. Though you may feel like you’re missing out on savings, you’re likely to throw away your savings when the item spoils.
  • Do you have the space to store the larger quantity of items? If you can’t properly store the items you want, you’ll run into the same problem described above.
  • Skip grocery-store-supplied deals altogether and create your own savings strategy with this guide to the basics of couponing.
  • There are some great go-to strategies for saving before, during and after your trip to the grocery store. These grocery shopping hacks can help you save without a multi-buy deal.


On the surface, multi-buy deals are tempting — you get more of what you want and spend less per item! Unfortunately, it seems that grocers are capitalizing on this feeling and adjusting prices for a bigger profit. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the temptation of a good deal. Do your research and make sure you’re truly saving!


For more on budgeting and ways to save more in all facets of your life, including grocery shopping, take a look at our blog post about budgeting your life in under an hour!


Babs is a content writer at Enova International, Inc. with a Bachelors in Cinema Studies and English from the University of Illinois (ILL-INI!). She loves binge watching musicals, reading in the (sporadic) Chicago sunshine and discovering great new places to eat. Accio, tacos! Find out more about her on Google+.


Recommended Posts