Bargain Betty

Bargain Betty’s money savvy tips

Hissy fit at The Warehouse


I had a hissy fit in the Warehouse this week. I’d gone there to buy Coverseal for my kids books. As the assistant started to ring up my children’s choices, I realised that the 1 metre packs were $4.99 each.  I stood there and said: That’s daylight robbery, to the embarrassment of my children and the shop assistant.  After what seemed like an age wondering what to do, I decided not to buy the stuff.  We walked around the corner in the mall and my daughter got the same brand of Coverseal from Whitcoulls for $3.29 a roll, still a rip-off, and my son got his from the $2 shop. It just shows that it’s never a good idea to assume prices are cheap.

Public holiday surcharges


I’ve been fighting back against public holiday surcharges. Usually I just walk with my feet and spend my money elsewhere. I’ve gone a step further and published a list of local cafes showing which charge and which don’t. I’ve given my research to The Speculator.

Click here to read my research.

My Contact Energy gripe


I pay my electricity bill by direct debit in order to get the prompt payment discount.  For some totally unknown reason the payment didn’t go through on January 24.  Instead of emailing me (and Contact has my email address, which it uses regularly for notification of statements), the company waited eight days before mailing me – and that letter arrived 11 days after the payment was due. In this day and age there is no excuse for not informing a client immediately by automated phone message, text or email instead of waiting until the customer loses their discount. I feel that the extra $30 or so I’ve been charged is a rip-off due solely to Contact’s poor customer service and lack of moving with the times.

Dualit toaster


An email from a work contact:

Hi Diana

I’ve been looking at buying a Dulait toaster for several years but despite the weak Pound the retail price in NZ never changes.

I’ve looked on-line and virtually all the outlets charge the same price:

Milly’s Kitchens        $499
Pantry Magic            $499
Choice Catering $403
Award Appliances        No price, but I think they are the importer so its propbably close to $499.

Then I look on-line at O’Gormans in the UK and its GBP 102 or NZ$214, and for UK customers they do a next day delivery serive for GBP4:60.

It’s another example of NZ consumers getting a raw deal.

So what does “Bargain Betty” have to say??


Bargain Betty says: yet another example of the classic Kiwi rip-off. You really do need to shop around – worldwide for things.

Beauty products


I wrote this originally for my MSN column:

Does beauty care need to cost a fortune? And will a $500 moisturiser really make you look 10 years younger than a supermarket brand?

Some weeks ago I wrote about the phenomenal cost of fashion. This week I’ve got the beauty industry in my sights. But it’s going to be a difficult task. Many women would rather cut back on food than save money on their beauty regime.

Newsweek has just published some must-read research on the cost of a lifetime of cosmetic maintenance for the modern diva. The authors estimate that the average American woman spends $449,127 on hair and beauty over her lifetime. Ouch.

Keeping up good skincare is important. But it needn’t cost an arm and a leg. Once, in my early twenties, I asked a consultant dermatologist to advise the best moisturiser to buy — and I didn’t care what it cost. The answer, to my surprise, was E45 Cream — one of the cheapest on the market.

I wouldn’t deny any woman her $50 lippies, La Mer moisturiser, or a trip to the hairdresser for “the works”. If you budget, these can be included as special treats. What you shouldn’t be doing is treating them as everyday purchases if you want to get ahead financially. Try to use up what you have first and then decide which of these items you could save on and which you should splurge on.

Can you, for example, splurge on eye shadows and save money on supermarket-brand mascara, lip gloss and eye pencils?

One area of beauty care where you can save enormously is by doing your own beauty treatments. There’s nothing in a facial or pedicure, apart from the pampering, that you can’t do at home. Try checking out some of these DIY beauty treatments for more ideas.

And it’s possible to shop around and get your beauty treatments done for less. For example, where I live, in an expensive suburb of Auckland, eyebrow threading costs $18. Instead, I get it done for $5 a time when passing through modest Mount Roskill, which I do on a regular basis.

Even better, get your hair or beauty done cheaply or for free at a beauty school. There are heaps of listings in the Yellow Pages.

Thinking outside of the square can save you an awful lot of money over a lifetime. Just lately I’ve started making my own organic shampoo and conditioner thanks to the fact that my children developed mild allergies to soaps and shampoos, and my wallet is severely allergic to the cost of “eco products”. Making my own is both easy and satisfying and the raw ingredients are available over the Internet from websites such as Go Native.

Finally, remember that a big part of the cost of your miracle creams is the marketing, advertising and packaging. Can you do without them? Your wallet would be happier if you did.

Have your say: Do you save or splurge on beauty care?

More about rip-offs


A couple of economists have written a piece in the NZ Herald about rip-offs. It’s an interesting read:

The Herald is also preparing another big read on the subject – to be published sometime soon.

posted under Rip-offs | 1 Comment »

Rewards points – contact sport


I treat rewards points as a contact sport. If I’m giving my data away to banks and other organisations I make sure I’m getting best value. I was thinking of this today because I chanced upon this Open Letter To The BNZ.

Here are my thoughts on Rewards Points, which I wrote a couple of years back:

Rewards points are one great big con. Most people give away their data for very little in return. Have you ever noticed how long it takes to build up enough points to buy a worthless widget?

I got to thinking about rewards points following a discussion over Sunday lunch. Someone at the table had driven across Auckland to participate in a Colmar Brunton consumer panel.

It transpired that she’d done it for reward points, which when we looked into it added up to about $17. It barely covered the cost of her petrol, let alone time.

Rewards points, and air miles type deals can have all sorts of catches. Sometimes you need to pay an annual fee, other times there’s a minimum spending limit, or there may be a time limit within which the points must be used.

It is unfair, I had to admit, to say that all rewards points are a waste of time. But buying something because it has double rewards doesn’t make sense if you could get it somewhere else cheaper. Driving a little further to a petrol station to get a few measly points just doesn’t cut it.

Using your rewards cards effectively makes a lot of sense. I have three: Fly Buys, AA Rewards, and TrueRewards from my bank, and make a point of checking with retailers when I buy something if they take any of them. I also have my mobile phone, electricity account and a few other bills registered with the relevant rewards card provider. That way the points are clocking up without me thinking .

Redemption comes in two ways: either buying goods from a catalogue, or receiving vouchers. The latter makes a lot more sense.

If the vouchers can be used at stores you shop at anyway, then they’re as good as cash in the hand. In my case I usually take Mobil or Farmers vouchers, which I know I’ll use sooner or later

In the case of AA Rewards, the points can be used as a discount off the annual membership. This is great because it doesn’t require me to do anything except tick a box.

Personally I hate the Fly Buys rewards. When I looked this week at the items on offer, there were few I would want anyway. Even if I did want a BBQ Electronic Fork, LCD Keyring, or a copy of Nothing to Lose, by Lee Child, I’d either look on Trade Me or wait until they were on sale. By using my Fly Buys I’m redeeming my points for full price merchandise – something I never do myself.

I can and do spend the Farmers vouchers from my True Rewards during Red Dot sales, knowing that I’ve got a bargain and haven’t even paid for it. It makes me feel a whole lot better about rewards points providers snooping on my shopping habits because at least I feel I’m getting a good deal.

To make the best use of rewards points:

  • It is a good idea to ensure that you make a mental note of those stores that accept them. Some can be quite obscure: such as Lollipop’s Playland, which takes AA Rewards.
  • Get extra cards for everyone who lives with you.
  • Ensure you’re signed up to collect points on your utility bills and insurance. Fly Buys, for example, gives points on your Telecom, Contact Energy and State Insurance spending.
  • If you’re going to buy something anyway and the price is the same, then tax advantage of double or triple points. But never choose a stor3e on this alone.
  • Read the fine print and make sure that your rewards or air miles don’t expire.
  • Identify your ‘Points Personalities’ – organisations take advantage of certain types of shoppers to get involed in their rewards schemes.

Finally, Kiwi rewards cards providers have a long way to go. In the UK where I used to live Tesco would send me computer generated money-off vouchers for the types of goods that I bought anyway. By doing this, the company provided me with a real value add. Tesco also gives points if you re-use your shopping bags. Boots the chemist had a machine in store that allowed you to enter your card and choose discount vouchers that were printed on the spot.

Do you collect other reward points?

More rip-offs in New Zealand


Yesterday I wrote again about rip-offs in my NZ Herald column.  Unsurprisingly my inbox is full of comments this morning.  Usually people only bother emailing journalists to complain. 🙂 But this time it was people agreeing with me.

Rip-offs in New Zealand are big news, following an opinion piece in this newspaper by UK sports writer Peter Bills.

It’s an issue that anyone who keeps an eye on their personal finances ought to be thinking about. We do get soundly ripped off in a large number of areas.

The full text of the article is here:

This topic of rip-offs in New Zealand is really polarising people.

Or was that 200% pure rip-off


The Bills article in the NZ Herald has fired the ire of many a Kiwi. It has even been discussed at cabinet level I read.

Bills has a followup this morning entitled Don’t Shoot the Messenger Guys:

I’ve found myself in the past that if you daresay anything that’s not ra-ra about New Zealand you get roundly criticised. But my role as a journalist isn’t to be a cheer leader for my country.

I’m writing my own followup about rip-offs in New Zealand for the Weekend Herald this Saturday:

New Zealand: 100 per cent pure rip-off


This morning’s NZ Herald has an interesting article about New Zealand being 100 per cent pure rip-off by international journlist Peter Bills.  It reminds me of an article I wrote on my return to New Zealand after 12 years away:

Godzone: where ripoffs rule – Personal Finance – NZ Herald News

Most of the things I said in that article five years ago still stand:

Life is perfect and sweet in good old Godzone. People are friendly and rip-offs are non-existent. Never mind the tourist literature, this is the New Zealand I viewed through rose-tinted glasses during my extended OE.

In the UK, meanwhile, where consumers believe they’re hard done by, the slogan “Rip Off Britain” scream the newspaper headlines. The phrase is so embedded in the UK psyche that when I searched Google I found it mentioned 11,600 times.

But a year back in New Zealand and I’ve come to the conclusion that British consumers aren’t hard done by. Looking at my own spending patterns, it’s easy to collate a “dirty dozen” where Kiwis just don’t get a fair deal……

Last year I updated these thoughts following a huge amount of feedback to my weekly MSN article:

More of New Zealand’s biggest rip-offs

If ever something gets Kiwis foaming at the mouth, it’s rip-offs. Looking back at all the blog posts I have written in the past year, “Rip-offs rule in New Zealand” got more response than any other.

Over the past few months I’ve thought of more rip-offs that bug me personally and 200 comments from MSN NZ Money readers have opened my eyes to others.

Here are some rip-offs that rile me:……..