6 Ways to Avoid Shopping Traps and Save Money
We tend to think of money as a rational thing, so it might be surprising that we actually make a lot of irrational spending decisions on a daily basis. Imagine — you walk into the grocery to buy some milk only to leave 50 dollars poorer and with a cartful of items you didn’t actually need. That may be because marketers understand how your brain works and use this knowledge to create an environment in which everything from the supermarket’s floor plan to the colors of the interior is designed to make you spend more time and money. How can you override your brain and avoid these psychological traps? Consider these tips to combat consumption traps and spend less.
1. Don’t Shop On an Empty Stomach
One of the biggest unnecessary costs is impulse buying, and it’s much easier to leave with something you don’t need when you’re hungry. It’s a well-known fact that you shouldn’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, but some recent studies suggest that the same rule also applies to other kinds of shopping. The reason for this is simple — when you’re hungry, your blood sugar is low and your resistance is even lower. We actually spend almost twice as much money on an empty stomach than we would have if we’d eaten beforehand. When go into a store hungry, temptations are much more effective and unnecessary items become much more appealing. You can avoid these impulse purchases by simply having a meal before shopping. Train yourself to shop on a full stomach and you’ll be amazed at your budget line at the end of the month.
2. Plan Your Purchases in Advance
Another great way to avoid unplanned purchase is to create a detailed shopping list before you set foot in a store. Whether it’s the supermarket or a clothing shop, knowing exactly what you need to buy before you start shopping will save you money overall. It will also help you to avoid “suggestive coupling.” Supermarkets often pair items so that you’re inspired to buy the extra “must-have” item; for example, if you’re buying chips you might also be tempted to buy the dipping sauce that’s been placed right next to the display. It may seem convenient and logical at the time, but you’ll be much better off if you stick to your shopping list and avoid these clever temptations.
3. Think Twice When It Comes to Bargains
An enticing bargain is another factor that can set off the brain’s pleasure sensors. Sales, two-for-ones, markdowns, outlet stores — they’re all created to make us buy more than we need. Usually it’s the anticipation of getting a good deal that drives us toward the cash register rather than the item itself. Remember — items on sale may seem like they’re a steal, but usually these promotions are designed for products you wouldn’t normally buy. Getting a fine deal is great,but unless you really needed the item, you could have saved more money by not buying it at all. Don’t get caught in the traps of bargains, and buy products only if they’re already on your shopping list.
4. Double-Check Before Checkout
Once you’re ready to check out, you’ll probably spend some time waiting in line. Use this time to double-check the contents of your shopping cart — are the items there really only those that are on your shopping list? If you see something unnecessary, this is your last chance to get rid of it. Be careful not to add any extras at the checkout — this area is often full of bright and alluring treats that you might be tempted to add at the last minute.
5. Get In and Out as Soon as Possible
It’s well known that shopping malls do many things to get more of your money, and the more time you spend in their stores, the better the results for them. There are typically no clocks on the walls of a store and no windows either. This is all designed to make you forget the passage of time, and extra amenities like taste tests and free WiFi can keep you inside for much longer than necessary. It has been proven that after 90 minutes inside, mindless shopping increases as customers start to zone out. How can you avoid this? Set an alarm for 90 minutes. When the alarm goes off, take a break and think about your next steps. Develop a plan — how can you get everything you need as soon as possible while avoiding distractions?
6. Track Your Expenses
If you’re really determined to save money, keeping track of expenses is a must. Following how much you spend on various items each month can help you identify “problem” areas and indicate where to make some cutbacks and adjustments. Keeping track of your spending requires attention to detail, so try using a budgeting app that will make it a lot easier.
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