Pay less for expensive essentials

We all know luxuries are expensive. Movie tickets are pricey, bottled water is exorbitant and our morning coffee is heavily marked up. But some vital products are also expensive. Here are some ways to avoid being gouged when purchasing them.

Prescription medicine
Many commonly prescribed Australian medicines are subsidised by the government. However, costs rise quickly if you take medications frequently or have multiple prescriptions. These tricks can help reduce expenditure:

  • Keep a record of your spending on prescriptions. Once you have spent more than a designated amount per year, you will be eligible for safety net discounts. Pharmacies can help you keep track.
  • Undertake a review of your medicines with your doctor, to identify cheaper options and medications you no longer need.
  • Make sure you show your Medicare card when having a prescription filled to get a medicine at the subsidised price.
  • Try buying from a reputable Australian online pharmacy. You can get good prices if you’re not in a hurry – and you’ve factored in postage costs. Just make sure you’ve informed your doctor, and checked out that you’re buying from a genuine, accredited pharmacy. Don’t buy from overseas sites.
  • Shop around. Some larger franchises that buy in bulk can offer discounts on medications you use regularly.

Prescription glasses
This is another industry with a wide variation in price. Make sure you don’t skimp on the first part of the process: go to an optometrist for a full eye examination. The expert will discuss your needs and undertake the measurements necessary to determine what lens you require. Your needs are specific to your head and eyes and your use for the glasses.

Paying way more for a designer brand does not ensure superior quality or durability. As puts it: “Manufacturers often make both designer frames and no-name ones with the same equipment and materials, and apply the same quality tests to all products, which means you can get a good quality pair of glasses without blowing the budget …”

It’s difficult to get value for money when buying workout clothes. Prices range from dirt cheap to eye-wateringly expensive, and quality is difficult to assess. We turned to consumer watchdog, which tested seven pairs of tights from various brands for functional quality, fabric, colourfastness, stitches per inch, pilling and moisture-wicking.

Conclusion? “The test results do suggest that quality doesn’t necessarily increase with price … Overall, given the trend towards sportswear as fashion, it’s likely that the extra dollars you fork out may well be for style or brand rather than quality.”

CHOICE suggests you examine the garment’s fabric. “Stretch some of the fabric out over your fingertips sideways. How well does it go back to its natural state? If it bubbles up it’s not a good sign.”

And make sure you try it on.

The mattress industry has endured some bad press. In 2016, a Fairfax investigation accused it of “taking advantage of uninformed consumers to charge huge mark-ups” and warned of “near-identical mattresses being sold under different names and prices”.

Lifehacker advises: “Mattress stores are notorious for making it difficult to comparison shop …” “Unfair sales tactics are being used to make customers pay thousands of dollars more than they need to for a mattress”. 

There are accusations of rebate kickbacks and anti-competitive tactics. But we all need a safe, comfortable object to sleep on, so how do we avoid being gouged?

  • Negotiate. Do your research at home, go to a few stores and ask for quotes. Spend time in the stores trying the mattresses. Then haggle hard.
  • Get recommendations from experts, such as your chiropractor.
  • Wait for a sale: prices can be 50 per cent cheaper.
  • Go exclusive: some stores stock genuinely exclusive brands, which salespeople are keener to sell first. 
  • Buy a ‘bed-in-a-box’ online. Companies such as Koala, Ecosa and Avatar offer only one mattress model. You buy online, get 100 nights free trial and they pick up the mattress if you are not satisfied. The mattresses are delivered in vacuum-sealed packaging, so they can fit in a box, hence the nickname.

Wine clubs
Okay, not everyone believes alcohol is an essential. But for those enjoying a tipple to alleviate the tedium of self-isolation, buying wine can be surprisingly challenging. Even experts find the wine market confusing, and wine clubs offer to do the choosing for you. However, some wine clubs inflate their prices to make it seem like you’re getting a bargain. A supposed discount is really a mark-up. And without a taste test, it can be difficult to work out if the wines they include offer value for money.

Your weapon? Technology. Try the following apps to get insider advice: Approach Guides Wine,Vivino and Wine Searcher. Sometimes it’s as simple as pointing your phone’s camera at the label to get a juicy verdict.

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Written by Will Brodie


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