Keeping money in your wallet is hard enough when you’re out at the store acquiring the necessities. What most of us don’t think about, though, is that just below the cheery slogans and colorful signs are clever strategies aimed at making us spend as much as possible any time we set foot into a store.
Guys, remember this is all a practice of becoming more intentional with what we are buying.
Before we jump into how stores try to trick you, let’s visit how to take your power back with a clear head:
1. Make a list and stick to it. This powerful little tip will keep you from impulse buying, which is what usually throws our budget off course.
2. Don’t shop hungry, ever! If I shop when I am hungry I usually end up spending way more because that ice cream looked too good to pass up or that wine was just calling my name. Carry filling snacks in your car or purse so if you have to shop after work and you are starving, just eat a snack before you walk in. It is also a cure for the hangry shopping (ya feel me?!). I may meditate and do yoga but I know I have wanted to chop off heads a time or two waiting in a long check out line when I am hangry.
Back to the shopping techniques you need to avoid if you are wanting to stick to a budget, kick ass, and achieve your goals.
#1: Pricing Games
One of the most common tricks that stores use to get you to open your wallet are manipulating your perception of a price in order to get you to buy something. As an example, say you had a big screen TV on the shelf for $350. Then, right next to it, is a model that’s the same size and lacks a few other features, but it only costs $100. This is called anchor pricing. That proximity makes it seem like a better deal, stopping you from asking if the item is a good deal on its own merits, rather than just because it’s sitting next to something pricier.
This happens in dozens of different ways. Pricing something as $9.99 makes it seem cheaper than $10, even though it’s just a penny. Advertising that you can “buy 10 items for $10” often gets people to load up their carts without stopping to read the fine print, seeing that the item normally costs $1 anyway. Even something as simple as writing out a price as “ten dollars” instead of using numerals can make someone more likely to buy it.
#2: Tax Free Sale Days
No one likes paying taxes, and the idea of getting to make your purchases without covering that extra cost is appealing to a lot of us. However, it’s important to remember that just because you’re not paying taxes, that doesn’t magically transform the purchase you’re about to make into a necessity, or a good deal.
This is a lot like the 10 items for $10 pricing game, in that it tricks your mind into thinking that you’re getting a good deal, so you’d better buy now while the “sale” is on. Before you buy, stop and ask yourself if you or your family actually needs these new items or if you’re actually saving any money. Because if you’re just keeping what you’d normally pay in taxes, you’re not really saving anything. Would you have bought all of those same things even if it wasn’t a tax free day? If the answer is no, then there you have it.
#3: Impulse Buy Bins Near The Checkout
Stores put last-minute items near the register specifically because people are more likely to buy something small on impulse while they’re waiting. This goes double for bins of sale items placed right near the registers. These are put there expressly in the hope that you’ll browse while waiting in the queue, and find something you want. If your goal is to keep your money in your account, though, then you should walk right on by without looking when it comes to these items.
Ding, Ding! If you are hungry you are more likely to grab that bag of calories, I mean chips. Like I said above, eat a snack and save a life from the hangry bitc… hangry grinch. J
#4: Free Trials
Who doesn’t love something free? Unfortunately, as most of us know, there really is no such thing as free when it comes to sales and marketing; there’s always a string attached somewhere. Perhaps the most common one is that a free trial automatically renews if you don’t cancel the service, sticking you with a bill for something you may have forgotten you signed up for. Always read the fine print, and make sure that accepting a free month of streaming or website use doesn’t come with hidden costs that you’ll be stuck with later. For example, back in the day I was sucked into a free makeup box trial and on day 29 when I was going to delete my credit card, it said I needed to give it 30 days in advance. So they still charged my card the monthly subscription and all I got was minus $60 for a pathetic box of junky makeup.
#5: Free Shipping (If You Buy Enough)
This is an online trick, for the most part, but it’s one that still catches a lot of us off-guard. You’re getting ready to make a purchase, and you’re eyeing that shipping cost, when you’re helpfully reminded that adding another item or two into your basket would give you enough to qualify for free shipping.
Always be suspicious of these offers, because they aren’t here to save you money. They’re here to make sure the merchant in question sells more stuff. It might save you money from time to time, but that’s a fringe benefit rather than the main purpose.
Being a Savvy Shopper Isn’t Easy
Smart stores know how to push our buttons, and to get us to buy things we wouldn’t otherwise consider. Being a little more educated in how the advertising and marketing works, helps me to realize I have the power to say no.
I want to hear some success stories! Tell me how you dodge a gimmicky sale, you money genius you.