The wealthiest people aren’t always the best paid – often they’re people who simply know how to drive their dollar further. Like Grandma said: take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.

We all know the basics. Don’t shop when you’re hungry or you’ll wind up with fruit toast, crumpets and bagels when all you wanted was a loaf of wholemeal. Make a list and stick to it and definitely no impulse buys. But what about the cannier tips? Alan Dooley, senior finance writer for and author of (Choice Books, $29.95) says supermarkets spend a lot of money studying the buying habits of shoppers to get you to buy more.

Chances are every time you walk into a supermarket you’ll spend more than you intended. One way shops tempt you to spend more is by promoting premium-label products. These are often similar quality to cheaper items but are marketed as superior. Brands they want you to buy are placed at eye level for optimum exposure.

It can be a leap to change the brand you buy. Some people buy the same brand all their lives. But the reality is, many generic-brand items, especially staples such as milk and sugar, are just as good as the more expensive branded items. “Supermarkets bring us convenience and everything in one place, but there’s a price,” says Alan. “They have a good understanding of the psychology of the shopper and know lots of ways to tempt us in, keep us in, and get us to spend more.

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“A lot of shoppers are starting to shop smarter. They don’t have to go without, they are just relearning some of the older values of thrift and being sensible and prioritising what is important.”Of course, supermarkets are also full of bargains, if you know where to look. It can be cheaper, for instance, to buy bacon at the deli counter rather than pre-packaged in the fridge section. The same applies to products such as chicken breasts or olives.

Take time to look at the unit pricing

Most major supermarkets show the price per unit of a product as well as the total price. This helps you determine if you are getting a bargain or just think you are. Many shoppers assume bigger is cheaper. This may have once been the case, but sellers have caught on and now you can pay more for larger items you didn’t need in the first place.

If you regularly shop in one supermarket, find out what day it runs specials or when it discounts most. You can often get great deals on meat later in the week and lots of discounts on a Monday when shopper numbers are down. If things are heavily discounted, consider buying a few items and freezing what you don’t use immediately for later.

The more often you visit the supermarket, the more you buy.
Going once a week, or once a fortnight but buying more, is a better option. The time of day when you shop can also influence prices with more discounts on bread, cheese and yoghurt later in the day.

Remember to check your receipt for scanned price errors

These happen more than you think. If an advertised discount item isn’t available, get a raincheck from the service desk. The next time you shop you can get the item at the reduced price.

Use store loyalty cards if they’re available

It’s no hassle to hand them over and eventually you will accrue enough points to get something free. But don’t base where you shop on loyalty cards. Similarly, if you have shopped at one of the major supermarkets and have a cheap fuel docket, use it. But don’t drive kilometres out of your way to get cheap petrol and then spend the money you save on overpriced drinks and lollies. “It’s a false economy,” says Alan.

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Bypass the supermarket

Consider getting a group of friends together and taking turns shopping at wholesale markets. It may be worth one person doing a bulk shop every month for perishable items such as toilet paper, soap and laundry needs and dividing them up.

Organising a fruit and vegetable co-op is another way to save money on your weekly perishables. If you take turns, you may end up only shopping for vegetables and fruit once every four to six weeks. So in terms of time and convenience, this is even better than the local supermarket.