3 Simple Ways to Beat Retailers at Their Own Games

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.



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.


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.


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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  • Pat

    Follow a blog for your store. I follow KrogerKrazy for Kroger and Hip2Save for Target. KrogerKrazy matches up coupons to the sales so you can get free or almost free items all the time. Of course you don’t want to buy things that you don’t need unless it is free and then you can donate it. I have donated a lot of things I got free to food banks. I bought baby formula once because the coupon had overage. The coupon amount was over the product so the extra money came off my other groceries total. Some stores let you use coupons with overage and some don’t and sometimes it is up to the cashier. I won baby food in a sweepstakes once and donated that to tornado relief. I love donating what I can’t use.

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  • kddomingue

    All excellent points. I buy mostly organic and cook and bake mostly from scratch but we do have some food vices (like hot dogs, lol!) that we indulge in every so often and I wait to buy those things when they go on sale as a loss leader. I’ve fallen out of the habit of shopping with cash only. I will be reviving that habit as of January 1st. And we’ve shopped for seasonal items after the peak of the season for most of our 37year marriage. Lol! Most of those years that was the only way we could afford to buy them!