Retailers have been able to master psychological warfare on our family budgets so that we're all trying to keep up with the Joneses while accruing ridiculous amounts of debt in order to do so.

They can convince us that we don't just want their merchandise, we need it. They have become skilled at getting us to use our emotions, rather than our logic. Teaching our children how to avoid retailer traps will help them stick to their budgets, as well as take more control over their finances in the future.

Retailers hire companies to help them design their stores so that shoppers will buy. Stores are thinking strategically, and so should we. Being more aware of clever marketing will help us manage our family's finances better.

Retail Secret: It's on the right

Did you know, for example, that most shoppers look left, but then turn right when they enter a store? That's because most people are right-handed and right-oriented. Using this little tidbit of shopping information, retailers put their newest and most expensive items on the right side of their store to put them in a buying mood fast. Sneaky, eh?

What You Should Do

Be aware of how stores are arranged.

Retail Secret: Relax and stay awhile

Retailers and restaurants have experimented with colors, music, and even smells to get you to stay in their store longer. They know that the longer you stay in their store, the more things you are likely to buy.

What You Should Do

To save money, make a list of what you need in the store and then get in and out as quickly as possible. Window shopping when you are an impulse shopper is like an alcoholic trying to read the bottle labels in a bar.

Retail Secret: Back-store deals

Retailers usually put their clearance racks at the back of their store, hoping your arms will be loaded with full-priced items before you ever make it back there. Clearance racks are also purposely designed to make you NOT want to spend time there, prompting you to head back to the spacious, well-organized and full-priced merchandise in front.

What You Should Do

: Head for the back of the store first to look for bargains.

Retail Secret: How 'bout another?

BOGOs (Buy One, Get One) offers are great if you really need two items. The store loves to offer those two-fers because they can successfully tempt you to buy more. Stores happily live with loss leaders (items they actually lose money on) because they know that if they dangle that carrot near a more expensive item that you purchase, they'll still make a profit on the total transaction.

What You Should Do

: You need to understand that the store's biggest motive is to increase the average transaction amount each shopper spends to be as high as possible. Only buy what you really need.

Retail Secret: Register add-ons

You'll be tempted the most to impulse shop at the register where many seemingly inexpensive items call to you. The store plants those "add-ons" at the check-out line, hoping you'll increase your total bill without thinking too much about it as you toss it in your cart.

What You Should Do

Decide how much you're going to spend in the store before you enter.

Retail Secret: Stimulate your senses

Stores like to concentrate on our visceral senses so that we don't stop to think logically too much. The store knows that tantalizing scents will make you hungry and everything on the shelves will appear more appetizing. People are more likely to impulse buy from a table than a shelf.

What You Should Do

To avoid impulse buying, make a list for all your shopping and don't veer from it. If you're trying to save money for a special, large purchase, keep a picture of it in your wallet to remind you of your financial goal. Then, when you look at it, you'll be less tempted to purchase dumb things along the way. Another trick to avoid impulse shopping is to pay with cash, rather than a credit card. A debit card works too, because the money comes out of your savings account instantly.

Retail Secret: Name game

Designer "exclusives," as stores call them, are nothing more than cheaply made merchandise using that designer's name.

What You Should Do

Don't be so fixated on price or you might overlook quality. According to a 2011 Consumer Track Back-To-School Shopping survey, they found that 56% of people didn't even notice that certain products had skimped on quality or even quantity in order to keep the price point as low as the consumers had remembered it being last school year.

Retail Secret: For a limited time only

Another tactic retailers use is strategic scarcity. Stores advertise when a sale ends, trying to get you to make the purchase now.

What You Should Do: Don't be pressured by time, especially when making an expensive purchase. Go home. Think it over. Do research on it.

Retail Secret: Ships for free

Most of us get excited when we see "free shipping" for our online purchases.

What You Should Do

Pay attention that the minimum required purchase amount doesn't compel you to spend more money with them than you had originally intended. Visit price comparison sites like,, or to see if you can find a better deal elsewhere. Those three sites, in particular, also offer price alerts, letting you set an amount for a specific product you're interested in, and receive an email when the price hits your target.

Below are some tips to help you spot insider information in national chains


price matches! Be prepared to spend some time at the cash register and bring proof of their competitors' coupons or deals. You can really drop Wal-Mart's low prices even further when you use coupons found on and deals at


: If the clearance price ends in an "8" it will be marked down further. If it ends in a "4" it is the lowest it will be. The "Red Card," their store credit card, gives you 5% off every purchase automatically. If you shop at Target often, it's definitely worth it to get their credit card.

Old Navy

Their final clearance number on the tag ends in a "9."


If the price on the tag ends in a ".97," it is their final clearance price.

This site tracks online sales from more than 100 retailers. I found an awesome website that lists items that might be on your shopping list right now as well as when to buy them this year:

Other Deals can be found at

This article was originally published on Check out these other related articles: Shopaholic? This one's for you!,

How to teach your kids to be smart shoppers and How to save money on groceries without cutting coupons.

Close Ad