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From strategically placed merchandise to misleading sales, stores spend millions of marketing dollars every year to entice people into spending and overspending. There’s no doubt they’re good at what they do, since many consumers find themselves returning from a routine shopping trip with sacks full of impulse purchases and wallets depleted of money that should’ve gone toward the cable bill.
Although you can’t blame yourself entirely, or stop stores from implementing such sales tricks, you can learn something from them to build better buying habits today – and avoid purchase pitfalls in the future…
1. Write it down
Countless studies show that consumers who shop with a list are less likely to make impulse purchases. The key to following this rule: Actually bring the list with you to the store and commit yourself to sticking to it. And don’t limit your lists to grocery stores – writing down what you want from department stores will help curb the desire for items you don’t need.
2. Pay attention to your gut
Buyer’s remorse is a strong indicator you spent too much on something you didn’t need. While returning something you want is often challenging, pay attention to how much better you’ll feel about yourself and your finances when you eliminate unnecessary spending. Paying keen attention to these feelings will help you better perceive impulse buys for what they are.
3. Learn what to buy new vs. used
Before committing your credit card to purchasing a brand-new product, consider what you may be able to buy used. Conversely, be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck when you do buy used, as some products are a better value when purchased new. For help with this common dilemma, consult this list of 40 recommendations from FreeShipping.org.
4. Use coupons
According to RedPlum, spending an average of 20 minutes per week searching for coupons will yield up to $1,000 in savings every year. Consumers can save on even more than groceries by redeeming online coupons for big-ticket items, and thanks to smartphones, shoppers can access such deals instantly using mobile coupon apps.
5. Do your homework
Before heading to the store, research prices among retailers by reviewing store circulars or comparing retail prices online. It’s also wise to read product reviews by consumer experts as well as consumer reviews. Consumer Reports provides detailed tips for buying various household items, appliances, electronics, and even cars. Other sites to check for trusted reviews include Epinions and Buzzillions.
6. Go solo
Bargain hunting is a dedicated sport that requires your undivided attention. Shopping with a friend is fun, but ultimately, that can lead to ovespending when you receive encouraging feedback about an impulse buy. Talking or texting while shopping is also a no-no, since it will distract you from the task. For more ways your smartphone makes you spend more, check out this article from Bankrate.
7. Never pay for delivery
A hefty delivery charge is sure to give you pause about an online purchase. However, since online prices are often better than what you can find at brick-and-mortar locations, finding free shipping codes is essential to saving money. Thankfully, retailers like Kohl’s offer free shipping promotions throughout the year, so be sure to find these deals before checking out.
8. Use a basket
Shopping carts were strategically designed to influence larger purchases. With a large shopping cart, consumers are less likely to realize the quantity of goods they’re actually buying. Use a small hand basket to better monitor what you’re buying.
9. Review receipts
People and computers are known to make mistakes. The store system may scan a sale price incorrectly and a register clerk may ring you up twice for those dozen apples. It’s wise to pay attention to the checkout process and when in doubt, review your receipts to ensure every deal and discount was applied. Speak with a manager if you notice a sale or price discrepancy.
10. Walk away
When you feel the urge to buy a product that falls short of your shopping list, follow this simple rule: Walk away. Give yourself at least 10 minutes to contemplate the purchase. Most consumers will either forget about the merchandise or recognize their impulsive behavior. The same rule applies for online shoppers: Fill up the virtual shopping cart and “walk away” from the computer before checking out.