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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.

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    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.

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    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
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          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.

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          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.

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            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.

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              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.

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                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.

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                  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

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                          Published on July 4, 2018

                          Top 10 Recommendations on Money Management Apps

                          Top 10 Recommendations on Money Management Apps

                          Don’t want to overspend your budget, swipe your credit card too many times, and feel like a financial mess? Instead of beating yourself up for the bad financial decisions you’ve ever made, create a new plan!

                          The solution is simple, save more and spend less. But, we all know it’s easier said than done.

                          One problem is finding quality apps that save you time and money, and aren’t just hype.

                          Luckily, there’re many great money management apps available at your fingertips. Here are 10 reliable money management apps that can help you save money, and crush debt.

                          1. Personal Capital

                            When was the last time you’ve tracked your net worth? Probably months ago or maybe never. Personal Capital allows you to easily track your net worth and plan for retirement.

                            Here are some of its main features:

                            • Sync many investment accounts, and expenses (mortgage, credit cards, etc.) in one place
                            • Discover hidden fees and how much they’re affecting your retirement plan
                            • Wealth management for investors requiring a long-term strategy

                            With Personal you’re free to track your expenses and net worth.

                            Available for: iOS and Android

                            2. Mint

                              If your smartphone could only install a few apps, Mint would be one of them. Why? Because Mint tracks all your balances and bills in one place.

                              Here are some of its main features:

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                              • Effortlessly track all your bills and balances in one dashboard
                              • Categorized expenses to understand where you spend your money
                              • Uncover hidden fees, and determine your investment style with sophisticated retirement tools.

                              Feel at ease with managing your money by a reputable company that isn’t going anywhere.

                              Available for: iOS and Android

                              3. YNAB

                                Everyone needs a budget, there’s no way around it. YNAB (You Need A Budget) is an easy to use app that will change the way you think about money. Their motto is to “give every dollar a job”, and you’ll quickly discover why.

                                Here are some of its main features:

                                • Easily sync all bank accounts in one place
                                • Visually see your debt paying progress with eye-catching charts and notifications
                                • Customized categories setting saving goals

                                The best part about YNAB is the community that comes along with it. You can hop on the YNAB forum to receive support, listen to the YNAB Podcast or stay tuned for their weekly videos.

                                Available for: iOS and Android

                                4. Wealthfront

                                  Albert Einstein once said “compound interest is the eight wonder in the world”, and for a very good reason. The problem is, most people are scared or unwilling to learn the basics of investing. This is why Wealthfront is the perfect solution for the hands-off investors.

                                  Here are some of its main features:

                                  • Variety of investment account options including IRA, Roth IRA, and more
                                  • Your portfolio composed of 7 different asset classes
                                  • Automatically rebalanced portfolio
                                  • Daily tax loss harvesting

                                  Wealthfront is perfect for people requiring investment guidance, or prefer a hands-off solution.

                                  Available for: iOS and Android

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                                  5. Clarity Money

                                    If you’re staying on top of your budget but want to take your finances to the next level, Clarity Money can help you. Clarity Money helps you stay under budget and build a personalized savings plan.

                                    Here are some of its main features:

                                    • Easily cancel subscriptions with one click
                                    • Synchronize bank accounts fast
                                    • Transfer money effortlessly between different accounts

                                    Clarity Money isn’t an app that does it all. But, it does make transferring money and canceling subscriptions fast and efficient.

                                    Available for: iOS and Android

                                    6. Acorns

                                      What if there was a way to quickly gain confidence in investing your money, without too much risk? There is, and Acorns is your solution. With Acorns’s technology, you’re able to make investments as small as $5.

                                      Here are some of its main features:

                                      • Automatic contribution option
                                      • Customized portfolio tailored to your needs
                                      • Low management fees ranging from $1-$2 per month

                                      Stop wasting dollars on expensive coffee. Instead, invest them towards a brighter financial future.

                                      Available for: iOS and Android

                                      7. Albert

                                        Do you budget by only subtracting your expenses from your income? If so, how would you discover any overpayments or extra money you could save? This is where Albert shines, and it does it all free.

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                                        Here are some of its main features:

                                        • Receive notifications for overpayments, hidden fees, and low balances
                                        • An Automatic budget that’s built around your spending and income
                                        • Easily track debt and set new financial goals

                                        While Albert does offer a paid option, most of its core features are FREE. So, what better option to save?

                                        Available for: iOS

                                        8. Prism

                                          Have you recently forgot to pay a bill because life got in the way? Prism automatically tracks your bills and syncs your bank accounts in one place.

                                          Here are some of its main features:

                                          • View all your account balances in one glance
                                          • Bill due dates are automatically pulled and tracked
                                          • Receive early reminders for upcoming bills

                                          If your budget is on “fleek” but can’t seem to stay on top of your bills, Prism is your go-to app.

                                          Available for: iOS, Android, Windows, Amazon

                                          9. Mvelopes

                                            Remember hearing about people using envelopes to budget their money? Well, Mvelopes is the new envelope system for this generation. Easily create monthly budgets and track your saving goals.

                                            Here are some of its main features:

                                            • Connect unlimited bank accounts
                                            • Real-time budgeting with auto transaction syncing
                                            • Low monthly $4 fee or $40 annual

                                            Mvelopes can help you crush debt, save more, and help you stop overspending. With its low monthly fee, it’s worth a try.

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                                            Available for: iOS and Android

                                            10. Wallaby

                                              Most people don’t have time to track their credit card’s changing rewards and interest rates. Because of this, you need help reaping the most of your credit card’s rewards. Wallaby is the app that will help you do just that.

                                              Here are some of its main features:

                                              • Automatic recommendations for the best credit card to use for each transaction
                                              • A friendly user interface, displaying credit cards with their corresponding images
                                              • Free to use

                                              If you’re using the same credit card to make your purchases, you may be leaving money on the table. Give Wallaby a try if you’re ready to maximize your credit card’s rewards.

                                              Available for: iOS and Android

                                              Take control of your finances and experience financial freedom

                                              Picture yourself staying on budget and saving more money than you’d ever imagined.

                                              It took hard work and dedication but you’d finally learned how to manage your money. You have to start taking control of your spending and saving habits.

                                              You now have a list of reliable apps that can help you build better money habits, what are you waiting for?

                                              Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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