It happens to just about everyone at some point. You walk into the supermarket to pick up one or two things and before you know it, you’re walking out with an armload of bags and no idea how much you’ve spent.
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Before you start kicking yourself, it might help to know that it’s not necessarily a lack of willpower that’s causing you to overspend. Retailers have a number of tricks up their sleeves that they use to try to get you to part with your dough. Knowing what to look for before you hit the stores can help you keep more cash in your pocket the next time you go shopping. These are the four sneaky ways retailers trick you into spending more.
Trick #1: Strategic Layouts
While you probably don’t give it much thought, retailers put a lot of time and effort into creating the most profitable store layout. Walk into a grocery store, for example, and you’ll typically see displays for items that are on sale closer to the front. Staples like bread, eggs, meat and milk are usually towards the back of the store, which means you have to walk by all those tempting deals to get to the things you need. Another sneaky trick grocery stores use is to put the most expensive items at eye level so you’ll reach for them first.
The mall is another dangerous place for shoppers, since stores will put the newest items at the front to get you to walk in the door. The larger the store, the more spread out the merchandise will be which makes it easy to get caught up looking at shoes when you’re really there to buy sheets. Trying to find the clearance rack or the restrooms? You’ll have to head to the back of the store and the longer you’re there, the more money you’re likely to spend.
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Trick #2: Over-Sized Shopping Carts
An empty shopping cart may seem harmless enough but it can do serious damage to your budget if you’re not paying attention to what you’re putting in it. When you’re pushing a large cart around the store, it’s easy to start tossing in things that you don’t really need, especially when they’re on sale. By the time you get to the cash register, your cart’s full and your wallet’s empty.
If you’re just stopping in to pick up a few items, your best bet is to grab a smaller cart or a hand basket. That way you’re limited as to how many things you can buy. Shopping with a list and sticking to it is also a good way to make sure you don’t end up buying any costly extras.
Trick #3: Sensory Cues
The minute you walk into a store, you’re hit with a subtle but strategic assault on your senses which is designed to get you to spend more. Everything from the store’s lighting to the music to the different smells are all engineered to make you feel comfortable and relaxed so you’ll be more willing to loosen up your purse strings.
When you’re in a store, it’s important to be aware of the different sensory cues so you don’t get seduced into shelling out big bucks. Before you make a purchase, pay attention to what’s going on around you to make sure you’re not being influenced by your environment.
Trick #4: Store Card Discounts
Chances are you’ve heard the familiar sales pitch for a store credit card. When you get to the counter, the sales clerk says you can get a discount on your purchase just for signing up. The application process only takes a minute and once you’re approved, you’ll be able to get discounts and rewards whenever you shop. Sounds like a great deal, right? Not necessarily.
Shopping with a store credit card can be a good way to save money at your favorite retailers but it also makes it easier to overspend. Research has shown that you’re statistically likely to spend more when you pay with a credit card. That 10% discount you got for signing up doesn’t really add up to much savings if you’re racking up a load of high-interest debt.
Avoiding the Overspending Trap
Having a plan before you set foot in the store can help you avoid falling victim to these retail tricks of the trade. Take a look at the store ads before you head out and make a list of everything you need. Set a budget for how much you want to spend and when you get to the store, head straight for the items that are on your list. If you find yourself drawn to that display of scented candles or humming along to the music while you browse the flashy displays, it’s a good sign that it’s time to head to the register before your shopping trip gets out of hand.
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