Top 10 consumer tips

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A smart consumer is an informed consumer. We should all know our consumer rights and responsibilities as well as the general rules of the market. This helps us make wise and safe choices for ourselves and our family.

You can learn many things from the Manitoba Consumer Protection website. It has up-to-date information on various consumer issues. It can help develop your smart buying skills.

Aside from the website, you can be guided by these 10 tips when making purchase decisions:

  1. Don’t give in to pressure

    Avoid high-pressure sales tactics. It is okay to say no and walk away if you are being hassled into buying something. If it’s over the phone, you can interrupt anytime to say that you are not interested and hang up. In an effort to be polite, sometimes we listen longer than we have to. Remember that the longer you stay, the more likely that you will be persuaded to disclose personal information or to buy the product.

    Never rush into making a decision, especially if it involves a large sum of money. Take time to think, do research, consider alternatives, and check your budget before making a purchase.

  2. Read and understand contracts before signing

    Read the fine print or have them explained to you. Many unfortunate situations have resulted from not reading contracts thoroughly. This is understandable because legal documents can be complicated and hard to read. But, if you do not understand what is written, you can always ask questions. If you are reading a lease or mortgage, ask the agent to explain difficult words, unclear rules or conditions before signing. It is their job to make everything clear to you. You can also bring a friend or your lawyer to help you out.

  3. Never give out your SIN, credit card number or bank account number immediately

    Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) is highly confidential. It is the key to all your personal information. You should share it only when you know it is legally required (When to provide and NOT provide your SIN).

    Make it your policy to never share your bank PIN or credit card information over the phone (and sometimes online). Banks will never call you to supply information that they should already have.

  4. Check businesses if you are not familiar with them

    Use the Better Business Bureau site to know if the company you are dealing with is legitimate. You can also do an online search or ask around if someone has dealt with them. Check Facebook, consumer review sites (for example Yelp or Amazon.com), or even blogs to see if they’ve earned positive reviews.

  5. Stay updated

    The best way to avoid being scammed is to be aware and updated about the latest marketplace trends. An easy way to do this is to sign up for regular consumer alerts by email from CBC Marketplace Watchdog. You will get consumer news, tips and insider information to help you save cash and stay safe.

  6. Check your credit report

    Regularly checking your bank statements and credit report can help you spot identity theft or unauthorized credit card transactions quickly. Banks send statements to clients every month either through the mail or online, depending on your preference. Some banks also provide credit reports free of charge, at least once a year. Read the article Understanding your credit history to know more about credit reports.

  7. If an offer is too good to be true, it probably is

    Listen to your gut instincts and use logic. Offers that give you higher than normal returns must have a catch. Take time to think and do your research. It’s a red flag when you’re asked to decide right away. Don’t risk your hard-earned money in shady deals. You’ll regret it in the end.

  8. Create a budget

    Keeping a monthly budget helps you stay within your limits for spending. It also reminds you of your priorities. Read How to make a budget to learn how to make one.

  9. Don’t buy things you don’t need even if they are on sale

    Who can resist 50% off? It’s easy to be convinced to buy things we don’t need when they are on sale. In reality, these things will just stay in our cabinets to gather dust. If you really want to save money, don’t spend it on unnecessary things.

  10. Keep your receipts

    Your receipts will come in handy if you need to return products or have them repaired or replaced. Some stores may also require products to be in their original packaging (especially for returns), so keep them together with your receipt. It’s always wise to be aware of return policies. They vary from company to company. You can check the store’s website or ask a customer service representative.

 
Article updated February 20, 2024.

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Community Resources

For more materials on financial literacy, go to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Download the Little Black Book of Scams 2nd Edition (Your Guide to Protection Against Fraud) to be aware of various types of scams, how to protect yourself from them, and what to do if you were victimized. It is available in various languages.

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