Skip to main content Accessibility Statement
Supermarket special offer

How your supermarket habits cost you £1,300 a year

Three quarters of us are spending too much at the supermarket thanks to special offers and deals, new research by the Money Advice Service can reveal.

On average, we’re overspending by £11.74 each time we visit the supermarket, which over a year could potentially add up to £1,274 – a sizeable chunk of money. So how do you know if you’re getting a bargain, or being tricked into spending more than you should?

Understanding special offers is a huge part of the problem. We asked 2,000 shoppers to identify the best value from four sets of offers and only 40 people (2%) correctly chose the right option in all the examples.

Do you reckon you can do better? Take our supermarket deal challenge to see how well you do.

The other ways we spend more

Our research also found it was a bad idea to shop when hungry and tired, with 59% saying they spent more when shopping on an empty stomach.

Plus, if you’ve got kids, try not to get drawn into their pleading for goodies, as pester power adds an extra £15.50 of items to your shopping basket!

The end result is we buy too much food, often items we didn’t even want or need in the first place.

Ways you can save at the supermarket

The best way to avoid overspending on special offers is to write a list and stick to it. Three in five people (60%) who do this said it made them feel more in control when roaming the aisles, and less tempted to buy things they didn’t want.

Be careful of end-of-aisle displays, and extras by the till. These are designed to make you spend! Often the lowest priced items are hidden high up and low down on shelves, away from your eye-line.

How to decipher the deals

If you are buying something on promotion, ask yourself if you’re buying simply because it’s on special offer.

If it is something you do need, don’t just pick the item that appears to be cheaper. Descriptions that suggest a good deal, such as “value pack” or “multi pack”, might not actually be cheaper than smaller or individual items.

Sometimes it’s easy to be confused by words which sounds similar. For example “50% extra free” and “half price” might sound like the same thing, but they aren’t.

The best way to know which are good value is to look on the shelf for a price per unit. This will show you how the deals compare by weight or volume.

What do you think?

We really want you to share your views, but please remember to be nice ☺
All fields are required. Check out our full commenting guidelines

By clicking on 'Post Comment', you're agreeing to our Commenting Policy

  • Pollyanna / 20 March 2016

    I always look for the price by unit price, but my husband doesnt, and he can stand in the aisle for ages trying to persuade me that one size is cheaper than another because he has worked it out by some other system, and will not be persuaded that the price by unit is easier.

  • Tracy / 27 February 2016

    To be totally honest i think ilthis is s good way pd thinking

  • Larry Stoter / 18 February 2016

    Good piece on how supermarkets deliberately confuse customers by making "offers" in complex ways which are often difficult to decipher. And even when products aren't on offer, it can be confusing - in the fruit & veg areas, "unit" prices may be shown as per lb, per kg or per item, sometimes for the same products. I see all these per unit prices applied to apples side-by-side, making it difficult or impossible to work out which is the best value.

  • kellywileman / 18 February 2016

    Sand me number I don't want it thanks

  • Nicodemus Kitili John / 13 February 2016

    Very true.

  • Nicola Clements / 11 February 2016

    Thank you Nicky

  • Nicola Clements / 11 February 2016

    I hope you can help me please I would like to say thank you

  • Paul / 11 February 2016

    So you're telling us that cheaper prices are a bad thing? How much loony nanny state stuff do we have to take?? If something I want is going cheap I will buy more of it and stock up. It will save me money because I won't need to buy it next time. Are you incapable of looking that far ahead? Your extrapolation from "stocking up this time" to spending £1300 more in total over a year" is ludicrous: or, more likely, intentional clickbait. Try this. Would it be better if supermarkets doubled the price in their special offers so that you don't buy them so you save money? Really? You'd rather go hungry?

  • Dr Colin Rickman / 11 February 2016

    This is a great piece about confusing offers. Not everybody can perform these calculations in their head but hopefully this will raise awareness. Another main problem not addressed here is the use of differing units for pricing of the same items (e.g. branded mayonnaise in grammes and own brand in millilitres). Unless you know the density of the object you are buying (impossible to do without a laboratory) they price per unit is incomparable. The same problems exist in many isles in the supermarket (including fruit and veg sold by weight and number of items). There is not logic to this other than to mislead the consumer.