Bargain Shopper Blog

Be my (bargain) valentine

Jodie McLeod - Tuesday, February 01, 2011
If you’re anything like me, in the lead up to Valentine’s Day you’ll tell anyone who listens that it’s a meaningless, consumer-driven event that doesn’t deserve recognition. Then on the day itself you pore over the love messages published in the newspapers and are secretly upset when no flowers arrive on your desk. So this year I’ve been pro-active and come up with some cheap Valentine's Day gift ideas with which to share the love.

Bargain gifts for girls
Most girls don’t need to be wined, dined or swept off their feet on Valentine’s Day – they just want the date acknowledged!
• Love letters: What could be more romantic than a personalised poem, love letter or song for your lady? Serious or funny, with references to her special qualities and quirks, this gift from the heart is sure to make her swoon.
Homemade pamper pack: Hit the local market or beauty outlet stores for a bar of homemade soap, a cheap shower puff or set of exfoliating gloves, shower gel and moisturiser and a single-treatment face mask sachet from the supermarket or pharmacy. Run a bath for her when she gets home and have a glass of wine ready!
• Romantic night in: Hire a DVD from your local rental or buy a cheap film for next to nothing at the likes of JB Hi Fi or Big W. Stock up on popcorn, soft drink and a selection of small pick-and-mix chocolates for some tasty show time treats then sit back and enjoy.
• Small and lacy: Spoil the girl in your life with a cute lingerie or PJ set. This doesn’t have to cost the earth; visit outlet stores at DFO such as Peter Alexander for some fantastic bargains on past season goods.
• Roses are red: Traditional doesn’t mean boring! A bunch of flowers, a single rose or even a posy picked from the garden will melt her heart and score you brownie points for the rest of the year.

Bargain gifts for boys
When it comes to romantic gifts, guys can be a little bit trickier to buy for. Forget about the schmaltz factor and just do something for him that you know he’ll love!
• Sweet treats: It’s said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Give this tactic a go and bake him some cookies, a cake or maybe his favourite dessert. Presentation counts so don’t forget to have some cellophane and ribbon on hand to wrap the completed goodies.
• Dinner for two: Forget an expensive restaurant; cook your man’s favourite meal! Light some candles; hit ‘play’ on some mood music and pop the cork on a nice bottle of wine.
• Cheese please: In keeping with the food theme, prepare a hamper for him with a selection of deli cheeses and seasonal fruits, all of which can be bought at the local markets. Complement this with a bottle of red wine and some crackers and you’ve got yourself a cheesy picnic.
• Gift vouchers: But not for his local book store... Customise a book of coupons with services you can provide. A free massage, cuddles on demand – this is a winner for both of you!
• Practical gifts: Consider your man’s hobbies: the football player might enjoy a new ball that you can kick around in the park together; the amateur chef might like a new utensil for the kitchen. While this isn’t necessarily the most romantic gift, he’ll appreciate the thought and love it all the same.

What are you planning to do for your loved one this Valentine’s Day? Comment on this post or email

Christmas bargain gift ideas

Jodie McLeod - Wednesday, December 08, 2010
With only seventeen days left until Santa arrives, the countdown to Christmas is officially on. As a smug bargain shopper who has not only bought all her Christmas presents, but wrapped most of them too, here are a few tips and gift ideas to help those of you that are lagging behind.

Before you set out...

Compile a list of who you’re buying for, your budget and some gift ideas. Wandering aimlessly through a shopping centre at crazy o’clock on the eve of Christmas Eve makes you desperate; you’ll probably end up spending much more than you intended just to end the ordeal. If you have some ideas up your sleeve, you’re more likely to complete the job in less time and with less detriment to your purse.

Once you have an idea of what you plan to buy, compare prices. Visit the websites of different brands and check the catalogues that arrive daily in your letterbox. Another great source of such information, features the current catalogues of stores such as Myer, Big W and Target, helping you find the best deals before hitting the shops. Many shops will better a competitor’s price in order to obtain your business. Have the discounted price quoted in writing and take it to the store that was originally cheaper to barter their price down further. You will be surprised how much you can save as the stores compete to better each other’s prices.

Bargain gifts for girls

Candles: Girls of any age will appreciate such a sweet gift. Visit Kit Cosmetics for a great selection from a range of price points, with lovely scented candles starting from around $20.
Beauty products: While online sites such as provide the best deals, it pays to keep an eye on the rotating sales at department stores such as Myer and David Jones, both of which regularly offer special prices for fragrances and cosmetics. Also check out brand name outlets such as Crabtree & Evelyn, The Body Shop and Natio which offer bargains year round.
Accessories: A beautiful scarf need not be pricey; check out high street stores such as Sportsgirl and Witchery where you’ll pick something up for around $30-$40.
Tea sets: A great gift is something you’d love to have but would never buy for yourself, such as a tea set! Find some affordable but gorgeous pieces at T2 or the Made in Japan outlet.
Books, CDs and DVDs: If my own behaviour is like that of other women, I rarely buy any of these three items for myself but love to receive them as gifts. Visit JB Hi Fi for the lowest priced DVDs and CDs and check out Big W and Borders for a great range of books. Again, always compare prices by checking catalogues and store websites.
PJs: Who wouldn’t welcome a fresh new nightie or pyjama set in their stocking? Again hit the outlets of your favourite brands, such as Peter Alexander at DFO, where you’ll find great reductions on past season stock.

Bargain gifts for boys

Accessories: Consider ties, belts, scarves or hats as stocking fillers for guys — all of which can be found at most factory outlets for under $20.
Wine and beer: Let’s face it – sometimes the best gifts are those we can drink! Buy your man a slab of his favourite beer or perhaps a wine hamper from sites such as
Beauty products: Just like the girls, guys like to smell nice! Help him out with his favourite scent; a good starting point is Priceline or Chemist Warehouse, where you’ll find designer fragrances from as low as $10!
Sporting goods: Whether buying for your dad, boyfriend, brother or friend, chances are there’s a particular sport that takes his fancy. For the golf-lover, for example, golf balls, golf tees and gloves are a godsend when it comes to finding the perfect gift.
Clothes: Sometimes considered a dull gift, something for his wardrobe may be welcomed by the man who hates to shop. After all, it keeps him from doing it himself! Check out the Country Road and Witchery Man outlets, as well as any other brands he loves. Make sure to check the sizing of his existing clothes before you hit the shops.

For next year...

Whenever you come across a fabulous sale or an unbelievable factory outlet, consider if anything could be stockpiled for Christmas gifts. Not only does this alleviate the last-minute present-rush pressure, it increases the chances of scoring a bargain and reduces the squeeze you will feel on your wallet. For the super-organised, the Boxing Day sales are a great time to buy all your gifts and wrapping paper for the coming year.

What are your Christmas shopping strategies and tips? Comment below or email

Father’s Day bargain gift ideas

Bargain Guru - Friday, August 20, 2010
When it comes to buying Dad a gift for Father’s Day, size does not necessarily matter (size of your receipt total that is!). You can still find quality, meaningful presents that show just your how much you love him without spending all of your Spring savings.

Here is a handful of bargain gift ideas — and where to find them — at various price points.

$0 – $20 

Accessories: Dads can never get enough ties, belts, sunglasses or caps — all of which can be found at most factory outlets for under $20. Find your favourite menswear factory outlets by browsing Bargain Shopper’s listings for Sydney and Melbourne.
Food: Whether your dad loves to cook or just eat good food, buying him a few gourmet food products can be the way to his heart. Hop down to your local gourmet markets and pick a few pots of olives, pesto, dukkha and some dipping bread — or anything else you see that would tickle his taste buds. Browse Bargain Shopper's listings of Sydney markets and Melbourne markets
Bathroom bits: While he might not admit it, Dad loves to be pampered as well. Track down your closest discount chemist or health store and pick up a moisturiser, shaving cream and razor, or a made-for-men body scrub and loofah. See Bargain Shopper’s listings of discount health and beauty stores for Sydney and Melbourne.
Breakfast out of bed! Don’t force him to eat your infamous sunny-side-sideways eggs again. Instead, take him out for a morning meal. Many cafes have big-breakfast deals inclusive of coffee and juice on their menus for around $20. Pick your favourite haunt and enjoy a leisurely morning. Just be wary of Sunday surcharges.
Get crafty: And we don’t just mean in the pipe-cleaners and toilet-paper-rolls kind of way. We mean — think about the small (inexpensive) things that your father or man in the house loves to do and invent ways to make that experience better. Does he like to watch the footy on the weekend? If so, set up his favourite chair in front of the TV with snacks and a cold beverage-of-choice ready to go at kick-off. Does he enjoy the outdoors? Put together a picnic basket filled with his favourite foods and take a drive out of the city (just pray for nice weather!). Check out the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services or Parks Victoria websites  for inspiration.
Photo memories: Put together a selection of family photographs and upload them onto your dad’s (or your children's dad's) smart phone. That way — he can take his loved ones with him everywhere!
Movie ticket + a choc top: Simple pleasures are sometimes the best. 

$20 – $50

Sporting accessories: If he’s got the right equipment, he’ll perform better, right? Well, that’s what his father used to say, and his father’s father, and his father’s father’s father. It’s the little sports gear details that count, too (which are in the ideal gift-giving price bracket) — such as quality golf balls, golf tees and gloves. For these, try (and note the $10* postage charge); or browse Bargain Shopper’s bargain sports store listings for Sydney and Melbourne.
Clothes: If the line between Dad's mowing outfit and his Sunday Best is beginning to blur, check out these bargain menswear retailers in Sydney and Melbourne to replenish his stocks. You’re sure to find tees, shorts, underwear and more for $40 or less.
BBQ tools: There aren’t many places dads feel more at home than standing around the barbeque. Give him the right tools and not only will he feel better equipped, but your snags will taste better, too. We spotted a stainless steel barbecue set by Avanti on for $39.95*, along with plenty of other tools under $40. Get cooking!
Wine: By the time a man reaches fatherhood, he probably knows (or at least appreciates) a thing or two about wine. Pander to his palette with a nice bottle or two, or bump up your price limit and buy a half to one dozen bottles from discount wine retailers such as Grays Online Auctions, or — if you’re in Melbourne — from the plethora of local wine clearance outlets listed in Bargain Shopper’s Food and Drink section.

Over $50

Sports game tickets: Whether he’s a mad Rugby League fan, an Australian Rules supporter or just loves going to the horse races, there’s a ticket out there that’s perfect for him. Visit or to purchase tickets (take note of discounts when you buy for groups); or for a last-minute deal try, which often offers cut-price tickets for sporting games.
Technology: We know our dads love technology, but spending a lot of money on technology gifts doesn’t always work in everyone’s favour. He probably has very clear ideas about the kind of home entertainment system, laptop or digital camera he wants. Instead of buying expensive top-shelf products that don’t meet his needs, reach for less expensive technology accessories that he’ll love, such as a mobile phone case and card wallet in one, or an iPhone arm band for exercising. Compare prices on the website Get Price to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Bulk-buy meat: There aren't many men out there who don't love a good steak. But for the price you’d pay in a restaurant for one round of prime rump you could get weeks’ worth of meat if you bought in bulk from a quality butcher. There are many web-based butchers that deliver excellent-quality, fresh or frozen meat packs to your door. For the Sydney region, try Farm Meat Online, where we spotted a half meat pack for $145* , or where you can buy 12kgs of beef for $150*. If in Melbourne, try, where we spotted 10kg beef packs for a reduced price of $165.*

*Prices valid at time of writing.

What will you be buying Dad for Father’s Day? Do you have any other suggestions for bargain gifts?

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