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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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                          Last Updated on January 2, 2019

                          How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

                          How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

                          Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

                          Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

                          Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

                          This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

                          Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

                          What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

                          Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

                          When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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                          How It Leads to Financial Improvement

                          It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

                          Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

                          Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

                          It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

                          Types of Personal Finance Software

                          When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

                          Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

                          For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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                          Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

                          When to Use Personal Finance Software

                          So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

                          Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

                          1. You Have Multiple Accounts

                          There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

                          If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

                          Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

                          2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

                          Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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                          There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

                          With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

                          3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

                          Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

                          Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

                          Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

                          4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

                          Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

                          You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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                          How to Get Started

                          From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

                          Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

                          It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

                          When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

                          Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

                          Final Thoughts

                          Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

                          In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

                          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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