I recently took an online quiz called, “Are You a Shopaholic?” Thankfully my results were negative, but it might only have been because it was fairly obvious which answers the compulsive shopper would choose and I consciously avoided them. If I was an honest quiz-taker, I might have had to change a few of my answers because I do go shopping “just for fun” or buy things sometimes “just because they were on sale.” Obviously there’s a big difference between me and a compulsive shopper; my bad retail habits are occasional and mostly harmless, whereas their’s are habitual and life-ruining. But I think we all fall into the “spend more than you need to” trap retailers set for us every now and then. So here’s a reminder of a few common retail gimmicks to look out for:
1. “CLEARANCE!” = “Buy it!” – Just because something is on sale, doesn’t mean it magically becomes a necessity. How often do we grab stuff we don’t need off the sale rack just because we think we’re getting a deal? If you don’t need it at full price, you probably don’t need it at sale price either. Avoid the clearance rack unless you’re on a specific mission.
2. BOGO – A.k.a. “buy one get one free.” BOGO is awesome if you were already planning to buy an item because you’re getting more bang for your buck. But if you weren’t going to buy just one of the item, why on earth would you buy two? Retailers know the power of a “bargain,” and they’re using that psychology to tempt you into buying stuff you don’t need just because it’s a good deal.
3. Multiple Purchase Price – You see this trick a lot at grocery stores. “Get 10 yogurts for $10!” or “2 bags of chips for $3.00.” Sometimes there really is a discount to buying in bulk, but not always. Check the unit price (or the price of buying just one of the items) before you grab multiples. Maybe the yogurt retails for $1.50 each, in which case the 10 for $10 deal will save you $5. But maybe each yogurt retails for $1.00, so you don’t need to buy all 10 to get the best price.
4. Point of Sale Add-Ons – Gum. Candy. A magazine. We’ve all made that impulse buy while standing in line at a register. That’s why stores strategically place those small, luxury items at the check-out. I don’t really need that issue of Comso magazine. If I did I would get a subscription. But when I’m stuck in a long grocery line and I spot it, I always end up buying it anyways. And doing that each month adds up to a lot of extra money spent. Think twice before grabbing that check-out line treat!
5. “FREE Shipping” – Free shipping is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but there’s usually a catch. “Free shipping when you spend $75 or more” encourages you to spend more than you planned just to save $4.99 on shipping. Similar to a lot of the “deals” listed in this post, free shipping is a great bonus if you were already planning to meet the spending requirements, but you should never buy extra stuff just to get the deal.