Retailers work hard to get our money. They offer special promotions and put other tactics into play, even hiring human behavior specialists to figure out our shopping habits and how to get us to spend more.

By having a few tricks of your own, you can be a smart consumer, foil those plans and save big.

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GRAB THE LOSS LEADERS THEN LEAVE

A loss leader is something retailers sell so cheaply, they’re willing to lose money just to get you through the door. Once there, studies show that half of all of your supermarket purchases will be unplanned. That means this store is doing all it can to help you go nuts with unplanned spending—grabbing anything that looks good.

Know this going in. Concentrate on getting only the loss leaders and grocery-listed items you need, then make a beeline for the checkout so you can get out of there as quickly as possible.

BUY SEASONAL ITEMS AT CLEARANCE PRICES

Retailers are in the business to make big profits on full-priced items. And they know you can’t resist new items to decorate your home or outfit your family.

They want you to feel compelled to buy new stuff each season and each holiday. Doing otherwise messes with their profit projections.

The way to beat them at their own game is to practice retail intelligence. Buying a new outdoor grill in April is not smart. That is the beginning of the summer grilling season. Waiting until July is the way to get the best deal. By then retailers are thinking Back to School, Thanksgiving and Christmas. They have to clear their warehouses to make room for the next season’s inventory.

Stop yourself from running to the store right away, and wait until seasonal stuff goes on sale at the close of one season or after a holiday.

PAY WITH CASH

Even though retailers don’t have to pay merchant fees when you pay with cash, they hate it. They know that if you pay with a stand-in, like a credit or debit card, you will spend more and boost their profits.

There’s no doubt that shopping and spending only cash on a day-by-day basis is not convenient. It goes against the culture and all that we believe to be true about the safety of plastic.

It takes effort to plan ahead, to stop by the ATM to get cash, to pay attention to how much things cost and keep a running total so you don’t become embarrassed at the checkout when you don’t have sufficient cash. Fine. That’s exactly how it should be. Make it very inconvenient and a hassle to part with your hard-earned money, and you’ll find yourself keeping a lot more of it.

Except when paying by mail or online, live on cash. You win!

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