If you always find yourself overspending -- no matter how many lists you make -- you may be falling for some commonly used marketing ploys retailers use to trigger that next spending spree. Now that holiday shopping season is here, you may be even more vulnerable to advertising tactics and marketing schemes that encourage an impulsive buy -- or full on shopping marathon.
Stay within your budget, and kick that credit card habit to the curb, by being more conscientious about your spending habits this season and by paying attention to what is really motivating you to buy that next item.
Steer clear of these sneaky tricks many retailers use to trigger overspending:
1. Encouraging you to download the smartphone app. Now that many a shopper is glued to a smartphone, retailers are jumping on the bandwagon by dishing up money-saving apps and purchase recommendations that you can tap into any time of day. While some can be helpful for comparing prices and searching the latest inventory, most are designed to put you in shopping mode in a flash -- and possibly make a purchase you might not otherwise make. Be careful about retailer apps that constantly send you alerts and updates on the latest sale items, so you don't fall for a shopping trap.
2. Creating the illusion of an unbeatable sale. If you're a bargain hunter by nature, you're probably already tuned in to some of the latest sales, clearance events and promotions at your favorite retailers. Many of these offers are hard to resist, but you can stay one step ahead of the game by putting the items on hold. Shop around and give yourself 24 hours to think through the purchase. Many last-minute deals and clearance events are designed to prompt a quick buy, which may not be your most informed purchase. Make sure that sale really is a sale worth participating in before you pull out your wallet.
3. Playing music that puts you in the mood. To shop, that is. Researchers have found that certain types of background music have a positive effect on sales. Shoppers exposed to classical music may be more likely to spend more because this type of music is linked to the perception of affluence -- you may be more inclined to splurge on that luxury watch or simply spend more than planned because your shopping excursion has become a pleasurable experience. Get past this trigger by being mindful about the shopping environment when you enter the store. Simply recognizing the type of music being played is a start. Or, you could just wear a set of headphones and shop to your own tune.
4. Offering to solve a dilemma. Whether it's finding that perfect pair of jeans or making sure you get the extra support with your electronics purchase, retailers insistent on helping you solve a problem may be setting you up for some extra buys this season. A store might offer you a discount just for getting fitted for jeans in the store and making a purchase during that visit. Others might host special fitting events that encourage you to find your ideal articles of clothing and get a discount that same day. If you're at an electronics store, you may be approached by a salesperson who wants to "solve" your problem of not having hundreds of digital cable channels or makes you believe you are missing out on something if you don't upgrade your smartphone. While it is the store's job to solve the customer's problem, be wary of tactics that are disguised under the mask of a sales ploy so you don't end up spending what you never intended to in the first place.
5. Free shipping to your home. This is a convenience many online retailers provide during the busy holiday shopping season but also a trend you might be able to take advantage of in-store. However, be cautious about signing up for that free shipping offer when a store is out of stock on a size or low on inventory of a particular product. You just might be able to find a better deal elsewhere -- and in person -- so the ship-to-home freebie is obsolete. Many stores will extend free shipping to you just to prompt the sale that same day, but you could end up waiting seven to 10 business days for your purchase to arrive. Unless you are sure you are getting the best possible deal at that store, use that time to shop around and possibly snag a better deal with a competitor.
Sabah Karimi is a columnist for the blog Wise Bread, where you can find consumer tips like how to select the best balance transfer credit cards.
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