It's probably a lot more fun to shop without a shopping list and toss the budget in a trash bin located somewhere between the electronics store and the dress boutique. However, after racking up thousands of dollars in credit card debt in my 20s, I've managed to keep my credit card debt to a minimum by being a conscience shopper. According to a recent article by Fox Business, retailers know most people are working with less discretionary income. They put the squeeze on so that people will buy their merchandise. I do my best to pay attention to the different marketing tricks and gimmicks used by retailers to get me to spend more money. Like most people, I don't like to fall into traps whether it's offering me super-sized shopping carts or creating a sense of urgency with limited-time sales.
Being a little cold
I am polite yet firm with salespeople who interact with me when I'm shopping. I let them know I am just doing some comparison shopping and don't need any assistance. People are more likely to spend more money if they "get to know" the employees or shop owners. I've witnessed the phenomena many times in the past when I've shopped with one of my good friends, who is a self-proclaimed shopaholic. A bit of a people pleaser, she becomes best buddies with the saleswoman and then purchases three times what was on her list.
Trying on fewer clothing items
When I need to purchase a certain clothing item, I always try on the clothes because I am particular about the way certain fabrics feel against my skin. However, I never try on clothes that I don't need because I know it is human nature to want to purchase something after wearing it. That's probably why some people adopt dogs after they have spent a lot of time playing with it in the pet store.
Ignoring product placement
I noticed years ago that my favorite department stores place all of the most expensive and newest clothing at the entrance. I don't even look at what I see at the front of the store. I simply keep my tunnel vision and head toward the sales racks at the back of the store. I can usually find incredible outfits that cost one fourth as much money because they are last season's fashions.
Looking past the ribbons and glitzy packages
According to the Fox article, some manufacturers put fancy ribbons on products or use colors such as gold so that people will associate the items with sophistication and wealth. I know that food presentation is important so it shouldn't surprise me that as a consumer I also value products that look more attractive on the outside. I make an effort to spend my time gazing at my shopping list rather than the attractive boxes.
Psychologists who study consumer spending habits say people are also motivated to spend more time in a store when they hear relaxing music or smell certain scents. Perhaps my best strategy for buffering myself is to wear earplugs and bath myself in perfume before I arrive at the mall. The article points out other tricks used by retailers such as the good old "bait and switch" which is just about getting a person into the store with the promise of a special deal that isn't in stock.
My best defense against overspending is to simply shop with my husband. He doesn't shop for pleasure and sticks to a list. If he can't find what he wants, he simply walks out until the next year when he ventures into a mall.
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