Advertising
Advertising

7 Tricks Stores Use That You Can Avoid to Prevent Spending More

7 Tricks Stores Use That You Can Avoid to Prevent Spending More

It happens to everybody. You make a list, you know exactly what you need, and then somehow you walk out of the store with a mile-long receipt full of impulse buys, stuff you didn’t know you needed, and well-as-long-as-I’m-here items. Think you’re just lacking in self control? Okay, maybe… but it’s not just about you. Stores use all kinds of tricks to get you to spend more than you intended, and lots of them are pretty subtle. They know that thanks to the internet and smartphones, we do our homework — heck, sometimes we even do it right in their stores. That means they’re willing to pull out all the stops to make sure that once you’ve made it through the door, you won’t leave empty-handed. Here is what you can do to keep from falling prey to some of stores’ most common tricks.

shopping-mikey-jones

    1. Forge your own path.

    Any store larger than a boutique is generally laid out in a predictable way to help you find what you’re looking for, with clearly demarcated sections. But this isn’t just to help you cross items off your list; research on consumer behavior has had an enormous influence on how stores are set up, meaning all those neat little sections are actually optimized to tempt you by taking you past all kinds of items you don’t necessarily need.

    Retail guru Paco Underhill, who’s consulted for a who’s-who of American businesses, has all kinds of handy terms for these tricks. Ever wonder why milk, butter, and eggs are always all the way at the back of supermarkets and convenience stores? No, it’s not because it makes the refrigerated cases easier to stock. It’s simply to get you to walk all the way through the store to get these staples — which Underhill calls “destination items” — and thus have the opportunity to pass all other kinds of merch. Same thing goes for clothing stores: There’s a reason why basics like denim are always at the back of the store.

    Even more subtle is a tactic Underhill calls “the invariant right.” We tend to walk the same way we drive; in the U.S. we keep to the right not just on the road, but also on escalators, jogging paths, and pretty much everywhere, including stores. In Underhill’s research (which includes extensive amounts of video documenting how shoppers move through stores), people in the U.S. nearly always turn right when they enter the store (we keep saying “in the U.S.” because in countries where people drive on the left, like England, yup, shoppers totally turn to the left when they head into a store). This means that stores place items that they want to move in exactly this sweet spot, usually about 30 feet in from the door (an area Underhill calls the “decompression zone”). For example, think about Target. What are almost always the first merchandise areas you see? Seasonal items (right now, bathing suits, sprinklers, pool noodles, and other summer gear at full price) and their “dollar spot.” The dollar spot is full of $1-$3 items which seem like deals (so cheap!) but are pretty unlikely to be items you actually came in looking for (e.g., a plastic contact lens case that looks like an owl). But once you’ve started buying, you’re more likely to keep buying… after all, you have to wait in that line anyway.

    Advertising

    Outwit the stores by shopping not only with a list, but with a plan. You don’t need to draw an actual map of the store, but if it’s anywhere you visit often, you probably have a basic mental map of where things are. Headed to Target to stock up on paper towels, or to replace a lost TV remote? Instead of drifting to the right and straight into the heart of the “decompression zone,” head purposefully to where the stuff you need actually is. Not sure where that would be? Ask a salesperson instead of hunting for it yourself.

    2-grocery-lyzadanger
      Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License
          by  lyzadanger

        2. Look up and down.

        This sounds so simple, but it’s a key way to save money at the grocery store, where food and product manufacturers pay big bucks to get prime real estate in the middle shelves. Why the middle? Yes, it’s where most adults tend to look — we’re used to expecting the big brands to be there — but more importantly for food sellers, it’s also eye-level for kids (little ones riding in the shopping cart and bigger ones walking on their own). Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that children can be highly influential on parents’ purchases due to what they termed the “nag factor.” Kids see brands or characters they recognize, or even just colorful packaging, and they’re likely to ask for the product (or if it’s within reach, just grab it). When parents balk, that’s when the meltdown begins. Wanting to avoid a major tantrum is often reason enough to skip the coupons, ignore the shopping list, and just buy whatever full-price, premium-maker item is making little Billy or Susie turn purple. Retailers and manufacturers are well aware of the sway kids have over parents’ purchases (especially dads, according to the same researchers), so the priciest stuff is invariably on those middle shelves.

        With or without kids, shop smarter — and cheaper — by looking up and down at the grocery store. Foods are generally organized in vertical stripes of comparable items. The lesser-known brands and the generics aren’t in the running for prime shelf space, so they’re more likely to be displayed on the higher or lower shelves. Yes, you may have to bend or stretch (potentially putting you at risk of the shopping deterrent Paco Underhill has dubbed “the butt-brush factor”), but it will help you to legitimately comparison shop instead of just defaulting to the big-name item that’s right in front of you.

        Advertising

        3-tvs-rusty-clark

          3. Do the math to get the real price.

          There’s a reason so many prices end in “99.” Marketing researchers call it the “left-digit effect.” Studies have consistently found that in comparing the values of similar items, shoppers believe they are getting a better deal when they buy something that’s this “just below price” than for a similar item that is a “round price” ending in 00. The effect is so strong that items ending in .99 or .95 can outsell comparable items that are actually cheaper but have a price ending in .00. That’s not all: A pair of researchers from Clark University and the University of Connecticut have also posited a “right-digit effect.” They found that when shoppers saw regular and sale prices with identical left digits (so say it was .99 either way), they perceived there to be a larger discount when the right digit was less than 5 than they did when it was greater than 5. This means that even when something is less discounted — say a flat-screen TV that was on sale for 10% off at $429.99 — it might seem like a better value than something that is actually a more substantial discount (like another flat-screen TV with a 25% discount that costs $549.99).

          While for lower-cost items this matters less, for high-end goods like that flat-screen TV it can make a big difference. The incentive to save can feel more intense, not just because that’s a big chunk of change, but because retailers will often impose scarcity (e.g., you need to be one of the first shoppers in the door on the big holiday weekend to grab one of these!). This is all the more reason to do the research and figure out what’s really a good value. Research prices and features before you head out to the store. Already there and feeling the rush of a potential bargain? Use a price check app like The Find, ShopSavvy, or ScanLife (all available for iOS and Android) to compare the price you’re seeing in the store with local brick-and-mortar and online options.

          4-shopping-cart-matthew-oliphant

            4. Don’t buy more than you can carry.

            If you live in a big city and don’t own a car, this is a no-brainer — no one wants to be that jerk trying to cram into a crowded subway car with a bunch of giant boxes. But if you’re at a sprawling big box store, it’s all too tempting to grab a cart while you cruise through the maze of aisles. Once you’ve got that cart, well, it’s pretty easy to fill it up. Shopping carts these days are super-sized (the average one has ballooned more than 40% since they were first invented back in the ’30s), making it easy to load up on all kinds of non-essentials. Aristotle believed that nature abhors a vacuum, and retailers know that shoppers do, too: Give ’em something big enough to tote it all, and they’ll fill it up.

            To make sure you’re not just tossing items in to fill the void, skip getting a shopping cart unless you know you’re buying an oversize item or you’re specifically making a big trip, like a weekly grocery run. For smaller errands, forego even the basket and just pick up what you need. If it’s not worth juggling while you’re waiting in the checkout line, you probably don’t need it.

            Advertising

            5-sale-tim-parkinson

              5. Don’t be drawn in by deals.

              Here’s a totally obvious statement: People love deals. Researchers have shown that when shoppers think they’re getting a deal, it’s not just about the money; there’s also a deep sense of satisfaction that folks who study retail marketing call “smart shopper feelings.” Scoring a deal doesn’t just gratify your ego (“I’m a savvy shopper!”), it also gives you warm fuzzies and a feeling of fairness. Remember a couple of years back (2011, to be precise), when J.C. Penney announced they were getting rid of sales and coupons, and would instead offer “fair and square pricing” at all times? Chances are you don’t, because that was a spectacular failure — in less than two years, the guy who came up with that plan was out, the CEO he’d replaced was back in, and there were coupons and sales once more.

              What made “fair and square pricing” such an epic fail? Another totally obvious statement: People love feeling good. If prices are always the same, you don’t get “smart shopper feelings” — in fact, you might feel like the retailer is taking advantage of you. In reality, the opposite is more likely to be true. Stores use all kinds of tricks to get you to buy more than you really want (or to buy things you didn’t even want to buy in the first place!) by offering deals. For example, think of all the items that are priced lower if you buy more than one. A single pair of basic panties at Victoria’s Secret costs $10.50, but somehow, if you buy five pairs, that costs $26.50. If buying five costs just over twice what two should at “regular price”, why on earth would you buy just one? Well, you wouldn’t — which is how Victoria’s Secret makes sure that every time a gal doesn’t feel like doing her laundry, she’ll drop nearly 30 bucks there instead of just over 10.

              If you’re reading this, you probably want to avoid spending more, and yes, looking for sales and deals is one way to do this. The key though is to do a quick gut check before you whip out your plastic. Is this something you actually need? Will you really wear it? And if you really want to push yourself, do a little thought exercise: What are three outfits I could wear this with? What are three times this month where it would have been handy to have this? You don’t have to swear off sales for good, you just want to be sure that you’re not just getting a deal for the sake of getting a deal.

              Advertising

              6-anthropologie-south-granville

                6. Never shop on an empty stomach.

                You often hear that it’s a bad idea to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry: If your stomach’s growling, you can find yourself salivating like Pavlov’s dogs at products that are not even remotely on your list (ooh, stroopwafels!). But it’s actually a good plan to have a full belly when you’re shopping, period. Why? Brick-and-mortar stores get that shopping is a sensory experience; the ability to see, touch, feel, and smell what you’re buying makes you more likely to whip out your credit card and buy something that you might waver on if you were shopping online. But it goes beyond that — retailers are constantly coming up with new ways to stimulate your senses. Researchers from Penn State and the National University of Singapore found that when shoppers experienced pleasant “ambient stimuli” that created a cohesive lifestyle “servicescape,” they were more likely to enjoy shopping and to make impulse purchases. A great example of this? Anthropologie, where one of the first things you notice upon entering is the aroma of burning votive candles in scents like “Baltic Amber” and “Santiago Huckleberry.” Before you know it, that $88 peasant top and $168 throw pillow don’t seem like splurges — they feel like vital components of your new upscale bohemian lifestyle.

                Even at stores that don’t sell anything edible, scent can trigger your emotions, leading you to spend way more than you intended. How to avoid it? First, shop when you’ve already eaten: If you’re feeling satisfied, you’re less likely to respond to scent triggers. For bonus points, beat them at their own game by chewing minty gum or wearing peppermint lip balm. Peppermint has been shown to trigger feelings of satiety, and by having that strong scent right below your nose, you’re less likely to notice the store’s scent.

                7-h-and-m-dan
                  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License
                            by  y entonces

                          7. Make your own playlist.

                          Speaking of “ambient stimuli,” another major way retailers get you feeling spendy is by setting the mood with music. Researchers have found that, like scent, creating a “cohesive” environment with music can spur an emotional reaction that helps you envision a lifestyle — and how that item in front of you would totally fit with it. For example, French researchers found that customers in a flower shop spent significantly more when love songs were played in the background. In contrast, playing non-romantic pop music had the same effect on sales as playing no music at all — neither made much of a difference. A terrific example of this is H&M, which offers not just “fast fashion” but fast, loud music. At a store like H&M, pumping in Rihanna dance remixes serves a number of purposes. One, loud, youth-oriented music signals that this store is for young adults — if it’s too loud, you’re too old. Two, the beat keeps you moving, or at least feeling like you’re moving, which is key in a place with notoriously long lines for fitting rooms and checkout.

                          Shop to your own tune by popping in your earbuds. If you’re really serious about it you can make a shopping playlist, but really you can listen to just about anything — music, an audiobook, a podcast — so long as you tune out the store’s siren songs.

                          Featured photo credit: Andrejs Zemdega via istockphoto.com

                          More by this author

                          smooth hair 15 Easy Ways to Get Silky, Smooth Hair best online bookstores cheap books 15 Best Online Bookstores for Cheap New and Used Books reasons to rethink fast fashion 8 Reasons to Rethink Fast Fashion 10 Things You Suffered Through That Your Kids Will Never Understand outstanding baby names for boys girls unisex Get Inspired by These 25 Unique and Outstanding Baby Names

                          Trending in Money

                          1 8 Best Finance Apps For Effective Budget Tracking And Planning 2 How to Start Investing Without Taking Major Risks 3 13 Books on Money to Transform Your Finance Management 4 How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them 5 25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

                          Read Next

                          Advertising
                          Advertising
                          Advertising

                          Published on November 5, 2020

                          8 Best Finance Apps For Effective Budget Tracking And Planning

                          8 Best Finance Apps For Effective Budget Tracking And Planning

                          Looking for ways to effectively track, plan, and manage your budgeting? Well, there is a multitude of apps for that! Finance apps are the best options around for tracking and planning your budget and keeping you accountable. After all, using a pen and paper can make it cumbersome to track.

                          The apps that we’ve listed below do a ton of the heavy lifting for you and provide a wide array of functions to help you with your financial needs.

                          How to Pick a Suitable Finance App

                          When looking at some of the best finance apps that are ideal for budgeting, we found these particular features to be important. Keep these in mind when looking for ideal finance apps.

                          • User interface – Navigation is key in any circumstances of an app. This is especially true for helpful apps like finance apps. You want to be using them regularly. As such, the interface should be simple to navigate.
                          • Habit building – Finance tracking is all about building money habits, and apps have unique ways of building those habits. There is the app itself but features like push notifications are also essential in some circumstances.
                          • Syncing – You should be able to connect your bank account to these finance apps, and that process should also be pretty easy to do, too.
                          • Usefulness – The number of features that the app has should be relevant and make it something you want to check. Sure, some of these finance apps work in the background, but those on this list help significantly when you check them regularly.
                          • Data presentation – The number of reports and analytical data is a core focus for these finance apps as well since it allows you to make sound financial decisions.

                          1. Best Finance App Overall – Mint

                            If you’re looking for an overall quality finance app, Mint is the first that comes to mind. It’s one of the most well-known personal finance apps around and for good reason. It provides you with a complete financial picture all in one place.

                            By connecting your debit and credit cards to your account, Mint will provide you with a list of transactions and break them into categories, showing you exactly where you are spending your money. You can also track billing and create a budget on the app to help you stay on track of your savings goals.

                            A new feature that Mint rolled out recently is the ability to see your credit score. Through this feature, you can also see the factors that are contributing to your credit score. Beyond that, you can also track investments and schedule routine utility payments.

                            Download Mint here.

                            2. Best Finance App for Debt Management – YNAB

                            Advertising

                              You Need A Budget (YNAB) is an app that is built on four rules:

                              1. Give every dollar a job.
                              2. Embrace true expenses.
                              3. Roll with the punches.
                              4. Age your money.

                              Based on these four rules, the app will help you build a better budget while also allowing you to gain control of your spending. You can import transactions from your checking account and apply them to each budget category to get an accurate look at your spending.

                              This app also provides detailed reports to show you your spending habits while you are striving to keep a balanced budget in the various categories. YNAB will also point out other spots that you can improve your spending.

                              According to YNAB, the average user will save about $600 in the first two months and can save over $6,000 in the first year. It sounds promising for a debt management app.

                              Download You Need A Budget here.

                              3. Best Wealth Management App – Personal Capital

                                Another solid choice is Personal Capital. It focuses on wealth management but also serves as another personal finance app. Through this app, you can manage assets and investments along with setting up a budget for everyday spending accounts.

                                This service integrates with over 14,000 financial institutions, allowing you to link your bank account(s) directly to the app and through it. By linking your bank account to the app, you can track your spending, too.

                                That said, the app really shines when you connect it to your investing accounts. By doing so, you have a convenient spot to track your portfolio by account, asset class, or individual security. The app can also show you opportunities to diversify, manage risk, and find any hidden fees that you could be paying.

                                Advertising

                                You can also compare your own portfolio to the major market benchmarks to help you keep track of whether you’re on track to reaching your goals. You can also get financial advice from this app as the financial advisors here are registered and can provide you with advice tailored to your goals.

                                Download Personal Capital here.

                                4. Manage Your Subscriptions – Clarity Money

                                  One of the popular business models that companies are moving to these days is subscription-based. While this model does have its merits, one of the many problems that we face with this model as consumers is that we find ourselves subscribed to things we don’t need. Paying for a streaming service is nice, but many people often are subscribed to multiple streaming services.

                                  Because it’s so difficult to remember and even track all the subscriptions we’re paying for, this particular app can provide us with clarity. Clarity Money is all about bringing to light what you are paying for and providing you with a convenient way to cancel and throw away unused subscriptions you’re not using.

                                  Beyond removing unnecessary subscriptions, the app also looks at your spending behavior and offers suggestions for ways to improve your financial health. You can even make deposits to your savings account through this app.

                                  Download Clarity Money here.

                                  5. Best Bill Paying App – Prism

                                    If you’re looking for a convenient app that shows all of your bills and financial apps, this is the app for you. Prism takes pride in having 11,000 billers on this app. This is the highest amount of billers on bill-paying apps you can find. From billers like large banks to even small utility companies, chances are high that the company you’re paying for accepts this app.

                                    Advertising

                                    In terms of actual function, you can add your bills to the app and the app will then automatically track it. It’ll send you date reminders to pay the bill as well so you won’t get hit with late payments. On top of that, you can schedule payments to be made the same day or several days in advance as well. Prism is a nice app that allows you to pay bills in one sitting without having to log in to several accounts.

                                    Download Prism here.

                                    6. Best Shared Expenses Management App – Spendee

                                      Many of these apps are focused on providing services to a single user. This is natural considering most of these apps are asking for your banking information. However, this is one of the few apps on here that allows multiple people to use it.

                                      With Spendee, the idea is to create shared wallets with your friends and family that you can then use to manage shared expenses for a household budget. You will need to get bank transactions for this to work, but that is fine. After that, the app will categorize all of the transactions and tally how you’re spending money every month.

                                      You’ll be able to add cash expenses manually as well for accuracy. Beyond those features, you’ve got bill tracker functionality to ensure you pay your bills and avoid late payments. There is also a budget component that will allow you to save and ensure you don’t overspend.

                                      Download Spendee here.

                                      7. Best Visuals on Finance App – Mobills

                                        Mobills is another bill management app that offers a great presentation of information. The app focuses on bill management and offers typical features you can find in these apps. These include categorizing your bills, paying them through the app, and setting up budgets to ensure you stick to them.

                                        Advertising

                                        That being said, Mobills delivers these features remarkably. It presents you with charts that are completely interactive and can help you analyze your financial life. Also, moving bills to various categories is easy and smooth to do.

                                        Download Mobills here.

                                        8. Best Finance App for Budgeting Overall – EveryDollar

                                          Dave Ramsey is a personal finance expert who urged people to follow a zero-based budget method. This method is the idea that every dollar serves a purpose in your budget. It’s this concept that has inspired the name of this app: EveryDollar.

                                          With that in mind, the app provides a monthly expense tracker that you can connect your bank account to. This will take note of important transactions to ensure your spending is in check. You can even split expenses between multiple budget items. The tracker also provides you with an overview of how much money you’ve spent this month and what you’ve got left.

                                          Staying true to the name, EveryDollar also has a money management aspect that will help you set up a money management plan. You’ve got access to money management experts who will guide you through financial planning.

                                          Download EveryDollar here.

                                          Final Thoughts

                                          Many financial apps are available to help you achieve your financial goals. Each app has its own perks and benefits to consider. The nice thing about many of the apps on this list is that they have free trials that allow you to get a good feel of them before fully getting them.

                                          More Finance Apps

                                          Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

                                          Read Next