The bargain begrudgers

30th November 2007 at 00:00
If we think other people are better shoppers and saving money, we feel aggrieved. But 'spenvy' is a waste of time, says Alison Brace.Do you feel that friends and relatives display more shopping prowess than you? Are they always bagging bargains or taking free flights?

And, as Christmas approaches, do these emotions turn negative? Are you filled with resentment as they get a Yuletide with bells on for next to nothing, while you're staring at an overdraft that could put you off your seasonal turkey?

Well, there is a name for this condition. It's spending envy - or "spenvy" for short. We know this because Corinne Sweet, a consumer psychologist, has looked at our purchasing habits and YouGov surveyed more than 2,000 shoppers to find out what causes us the most angst in the shopping mall.

Spenvy, it would appear, has been primarily fuelled by changes in high street habits. Where once there was the simple money-off voucher and the January sales, we now wrestle with a plethora of reward schemes, BOGOFs and year round bargain rails.

"We live in a culture where people are still generally quite discreet about something they've splashed out on," says Corinne, who developed the research with Airmiles. "But if we've been savvy with our money, we're all too happy to show off and tell people how much we've saved.

"These days, many people are less conscious of what they can afford, and more concerned about how far they can demonstrate their own shopping savviness and make their money work harder. It's a whole new take on keeping up with the Joneses where it's not what you've got that counts, but how you got it."

The research by YouGov showed that 78 per cent of us felt secret disappointment and guilt when others made their money stretch further. A quarter felt jealous and almost a third felt determined to change their behaviour.

Three per cent said they even felt anger about the shopping prowess of others.

Well, someone needs a reality check - or they ought to try being a teacher, because they've got too much time on their hands. The emergence of spenvy might be a sad comment on our unstoppable consumerism, but before you get all philosophical about it, there is treatment for it.

The simplest, of course, is to ignore what your friends buy. Alternatively, you too can make the most of reward schemes. Martin Lewis, of Moneysavingexpert.com, says the key to this is to choose one or two of the best - and make sure you channel your shopping through those schemes - and use the rewards.

Around 15 per cent of us carry four or more reward cards in their wallet - but it's estimated that only two cards get used on a weekly basis.

It's all about finding out which card works hardest for you - and ditching the rest.

Martin Lewis's research has shown that Airmiles is the best all-round rewards programme, with each Airmile worth 7.8p. This compares with Tesco Clubcard points, which are worth 1p in store or Nectar points, worth a little over half a pence each.

But let's face it, there's more to being a savvy shopper than using loyalty points. The schemes encourage us to spend more in the first place just so we can earn more points.

Is it any wonder three-quarters of the nation are sweating out spenvy symptoms? Reward cards and deals seems to just fuel a spending frenzy. Be brave and kick spenvy into touch. Be wise with your cash and enjoy what you buy. Keeping up with the Joneses never was much fun anyway.

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