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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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                            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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                          Last Updated on September 2, 2020

                          How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

                          How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

                          Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

                          In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

                          4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

                          Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

                          1. Be Clear About the Objectives

                          Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

                          It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

                          Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

                          2. Keep Goals Realistic

                          It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

                          It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

                          3. Account for Inflation

                          Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

                          Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

                          For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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                          4. Short Term Vs Long Term

                          Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

                          As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

                          By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

                          How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

                          Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

                          • Ensuring healthy savings
                          • Making smart investments

                          You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

                          Ensuring Healthy Savings

                          Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

                          This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

                          1. Track Expenses

                          The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

                          Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

                          If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

                          2. Pay Yourself First

                          Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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                          Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

                          The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

                          Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

                          3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

                          Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

                          Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

                          At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

                          Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

                          You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

                          4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

                          In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

                          Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

                          • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
                          • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
                          • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

                          The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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                          5. Talk About It

                          Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

                          Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

                          6. Maintain a Journal

                          For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

                          If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

                          When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

                          Making Smart Investments

                          Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

                          1. Consult a Financial Advisor

                          Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

                          Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

                          2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

                          Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

                          Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

                          As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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                          3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

                          Einstein once remarked about compounding:

                          “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

                          Use compound interest when setting financial goals

                            Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

                            Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

                            4. Measure, Measure, Measure

                            All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

                            If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

                            Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

                            The Bottom Line

                            Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

                            and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

                            More Tips on Financial Goals

                            Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

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