The Great Singapore Sale (GSS) is on, but here's a shocker: you might not be saving money at all! The lure of discounted items may cause shoppers to spend more than save. So keep these common mistakes in mind, when you're out hunting for a good deal.

1. Assuming all discounts are real

When is a sale not a sale? It’s when a retailer marks up and item, and then just removes the markup during the GSS. For example:

Say a quilt retails for $79.90. This is the standard price, and it’s what you’d find if you bought it on Amazon or a less greedy store.

Sometimes, a retailer might mark it up to $99.90 (because in retail stores people tend to buy more impulsively, and without comparing prices). During the GSS, they might sell it at $79.90 and call it a sale. In reality the $20 reduction just means no markup.

You’re not buying an item on sale, you’re just buying it at the standard price.

2. Bulk buying everything

Just because things are bundled together, that doesn’t mean you’re saving money.

Before you bulk buy, consider if you will actually use everything in the package deal. For example, you may be able to bulk buy a whole carton of soft drinks at once – but do you actually drink that much?

If a six pack costs $5.90, and a carton of 24 cans costs $20, there’s no doubt the carton costs less per can. But if all you need are six cans, buying the carton isn’t saving you money – it’s just wasting $14.10.

Utility always comes before quantity. If you don’t need it, the best way to save is not to buy extra at all.

3. Buying because this is your one chance to get it on sale

If you think the GSS is your one shot at getting a good discount, you are almost certainly wrong.

Remember that the GSS is just one of many sales. Singapore is a retail haven where clearance sales and promotions happen all year round.

So the discounted laptop/washing machine/bed etc. you’re seeing is almost certainly not your only chance to get it on sale. Retailers will drive you to buy by creating a sense of urgency, stating that the number of pieces left is limited, or that this is the only time it will be on sale. Don’t fall for it.

For electronics, remember that a variety of other events such as Comex will bring about future sale opportunities.

4. Buying overpriced peripherals

Some stores make up for the GSS discount by marking up peripherals.  An example would be selling you a camera at a discounted base price, but then selling the lenses at a higher markup.

This can happen with almost any kind of product. For example, hair care products might offer a steep sale on one particular product (just the shampoo), but you will then be upsold on complementary products like special conditioners or scalp treatment creams. These additional products may even be more expensive than usual.

When purchasing, keep your eye on the dollar amount of the final bill. Don’t be sidetracked into focusing on one or two items that are discounted.

5. Assuming the discount stays the same throughout GSS

We suggest you take your time, and wait til the last few days before a GSS shopping binge. This is because many retailers see the GSS as a means to clear out older items as well.

As the GSS wears on and they fail to remove these products, the discounts may actually grow. So a 10 per cent discount at the start of the GSS may well become a “final day 20 per cent off” discount toward the last week.

If the product is just a “nice to have”, consider waiting. You might bag a real bargain after all.

6. Charging everything to random debit or credit cards

Don’t charge your retail purchases to your petrol card, or use your MasterCard when a Visa would get you a bigger discount. Most debit or credit cards are optimised for specific purposes.

For example, the OCBC Robinsons Group credit card will get you a better deal at Marks & Spencer than most others (5 per cent rebate on top of existing discounts). As a side bonus, you also get complimentary parking at relevant stores when you go shopping. This can save you almost $10 in parking for most weekend shopping trips.

Another example is the ANZ Platinum Card, which gives you complimentary full-day weekend parking at Tang Plaza when you charge at least S$100 at TANGS, and 20X points for every $1 spent at TANGS.

You can check to find cards that match your purchasing decisions. Comparing credit cards earns you even more rebates, air miles to redeem flight tickets, reward points for further discounts, and more.

This article was first published on, a financial comparison site that provides tips and advice on saving money in Singapore.