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How Stores Get More of Your Money

The following post is from Christina of Northern Cheapskate: How Stores Get More of Your Money

shopping cart
photo credit: Rick Harris

How many times have you caught yourself running into a store to pick up one thing, only to come out with a cartload of stuff and $40 less in your wallet?

Merchants want you to spend your money on their wares.  And they use a lot of not-so-obvious tricks and treats to get you to do that.

Savvy shoppers learn to be aware of the marketing tactics and use them to their advantage.

Learn how to navigate the marketing maze to find the best deals and avoid spendy impulse buys by being aware of these marketing ploys:

Giant shopping carts by the door

So many shoppers (myself included) grab a shopping cart the instant they enter the store.  This is probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make if you’re only running in for a couple of items and are on a tight budget.  A cart is just too easy to fill as you make your way through the store.   Learn to carry your purchases in your hands or grab a smaller basket.  You’ll be less tempted to spend more than you planned.

Inexpensive or sale items right when you walk in

Stores make millions of dollars each year off of impulse shoppers.  Make a shopping list before you enter the store and you can just walk right past that dollar section or sale rack.

Offering free samples and coupons

Many stores will put out free samples of food or beauty products with high-value coupons that expire within a day or so.  If you like the sample, the connection you make with the smiling person handing you the samples just may weaken your grasp on your wallet.  Head to the stores on a full tummy, and be prepared to say “no thank you” to extra spending.

Higher priced items at eye level

The higher-priced, name-brand items are always at eye level.  This placement allows the store to make the most amount of money off of shoppers who just rush in and grab what they need and leave.  Be a smart shopper and remember to look high and low.  You’ll find better prices and greater values.

Signs that make a deal sound better than it is

One grocery store near me is notorious for having “fabulous Buy One Get One Free” sales.  But they jack up the prices before the big sale, so you end up paying far more for the product than you would elsewhere.  Keep track of what stuff costs (a price notebook can help) and do the math. Figure out the unit cost of items to make sure a deal is really a deal.

A deal isn’t a deal just because a sign says it is.

No clocks

It’s nearly impossible to find a clock at a department store.  Merchants want you to lose track of time in their stores because you’ll spend more money.  Enter the store with a finite amount of time to spend, and it will keep you from heading to the clearance racks to window shop.  I like to set the alarm on my cell phone to remind me that I need to get out of the store.

Discounts for using a store credit card

Store clerks often offer 10 to 20 percent discounts if you sign up for a store credit card.  Just say “no.”   Even if you promise to pay the balance in full, you’ll have another card to tempt you into buying things you don’t need.  In addition, having an extra credit card can affect your credit score.

Signing you up for mailings

It seems so innocent to give out your e-mail or mailing address so that you can learn about upcoming sales and special discounts.  But each time you receive one of those special offers in your inbox or mailbox, you’ll be tempted to spend your money.  And isn’t your wish list long enough already?  I know mine is!

Merchants want you to be comfortable and happy in their stores.  And you can be.  Just remember what items you really need, and what things may be wants created by good marketing.

How do you avoid temptation in the stores?

Christina Brown is the creator of Northern Cheapskate, a blog dedicated to frugal living through coupons, freebies, and money-saving ideas.  She lives in the rural north woods of Minnesota where she clips coupons, pinches pennies, and chases her three boys (a 6-year-old and twin 4-year olds) as a stay-at-home mom.