Why is it that the odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with ONLY a loaf of bread are about three billion to one?
Food prices in the U.S. have climbed so dramatically in recent months, a stroll through the aisles of a typical supermarket is enough to kill your appetite. If that were the only place we spent our food dollars that would be one thing. But most families these days spend as much eating out as they do for food to prepare at home.
It’s no secret that supermarkets and grocery stores purposely design their layouts to entice us to buy lots more than we’d planned to purchase when we walked through the door, but shoppers are not victims. It all boils down to the choices we make—not just for what we buy but when we buy it.
There must be dozens of ways to shop for groceries, and I’m certain I’ve tried them all. But when it comes right down to it, every possible method falls into one of two categories—needs shopping or reserve shopping.
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I blame my suspicious nature on my neighborhood grocery store. The store used to be a logically arranged market with bright lights and clean floors—a basic, friendly, functional place to shop.
Then the bulldozers morphed it into a big fancy schmancy supermarket complete with shopping triggers of mood lighting, Starbucks, Panda Express, and lots of comfy chairs.
I have nothing against beautiful spaces and modern conveniences, but I’m no fool. I knew all of this effort was to one end—to get me to spend more of my hard-earned money. It was evident the moment I entered the all new, super modern, tripled-in-size, mega supermarket. Everything from the music to the colors, to the placement of the busy bakery seemed ultra contrived.
Take the “3 for $6!” special of the week. Why not just say $2 each and drop the exclamation mark, I muttered to myself as I placed one jar of spaghetti sauce in the cart.
Before I could wheel away I had my answer: I saw several customers dutifully place three jars in their carts. Not two, not four, but three jars.
That response was no accident. In fact, that’s a simple example of how retailers use tricks to persuade—dare I say manipulate—customers to buy more. Retailers hire experts like Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, and his company, Envirosell, to follow thousands of shoppers a year in person, on video, and online observing their every move. Underhill’s book is a fascinating read.
Using this information, the stores find ways to get people to shop longer, spend more, and return often. Underhill and his crew are so good at what they do, they can tell retailers what will entice people to enter the store, which way they’ll look once they’re inside, and a lot more.
How important is consumer persuasion to the marketplace? “If we went into stores only when we needed to buy something,” Underhill to me in one of my favorite interviews of all time, “and if once there we bought only what we needed, the economy would collapse. Boom.”
No one wants the economy to get any worse, but we don’t want to overspend either. And while much of our shopping has moved to online rather than in-store, the science of persuasion and the tricks retailers play to improve their bottom line have not changed—they’ve simply taken on a new appearance.
Our defense as consumers is to educate ourselves about shopping triggers. Here are the 12 tricks we need to know about.
1. Inviting atmosphere
Retailers know that as much as 70 percent of all purchases are unplanned! They want you to linger as long as possible, so they create an atmosphere that’s inviting to the store’s target audience. The music, the lighting, the displays are all designed to pull us in.
Take Costco, for example. It’s not due to lack of space that so many things you’ve not seen before are stacked at the entrance. That tactic is so strategic, management has even given it a name: Treasure Alley. It’s where the most impulsive decisions are made and if you don’t believe that, next time you’re in Costco—even Sam’s and BJ’s for that matter—and observe as people pour through the doors and stop short about 10 feet in, as they start loading their carts.
Don’t browse. Just get in, get what you need, and leave. Know before you go. True needs are not discovered while standing in a store aisle.
2. Strategic colors
Stores use certain colors according to the audience they’re trying to reach: Younger people tend to like bold colors; older people prefer softer hues. Those colors may be on the walls of the brick and mortar store, or the online retailer’s website. It’s subtle. You may not be aware of how you’re being played to prompt a sale.
“Universally, a soft shade of blue creates a sense of calm, which makes people want to stay longer,” says Underhill. Meanwhile, most fast-food restaurants are decorated in vivid reds and oranges, which encourage us to eat quickly and leave—exactly what the fast-food operator wants us to do.
Take note of a store’s colors or website, then smile knowingly. Just being aware of them helps you take control.
Have you noticed more stores using carpeting? That’s because it can help influence patterns of travel around a store, starting just inside the shop entrance. Carpeting, used as a subtle shopping trigger, directs you deeper into the store by creating a defined path for you to follow.
Create your own path. Step off the carpet and shop for the items you came to buy. Don’t fall for pop-ups on a website that want to guide you around to show you all the cool stuff you should add to your cart.
4. Strategically placed merchandise
“Some retailers insist on displaying their most expensive items in the front. It makes everything else seem inexpensive afterward,” warns Robert Cialdini, PhD, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
With sale items, it’s a kind of double trick. We get pulled in by the promise of a sale, but once we’re inside, those sale items often aren’t clearly displayed or as desirable as we thought. But, because we’ve already mentally decided to buy, we often buy something else.
If the “buy” you thought you wanted turns out not to be what you were led to believe, take a moment to think about it. Don’t feel compelled to buy something else to make up for it.
5. Easy access
Research shows that if you touch something, you’re more likely to buy it. That’s why products like stuffed animals and candy are placed within easy reach of children at the grocery checkout, and soft blankets or cozy sweaters are positioned strategically on low tables at a store’s entrance.
Hands off. Don’t touch the merchandise even to look at the price tag unless it’s something you’ve planned to buy. Don’t put it in your online cart with the plan to delete it later, before you check out.
6. Spacious shopping carts
A cart frees you to touch more things. “Stores that offer baskets or carts sell more than ones that don’t,” says Underhill. “And when stores increase the size of the baskets, they often find that shoppers purchase more items.”
Forget the cart. Or at least opt for the smallest one.
7. Shrinking products
This one often goes unnoticed. A “3-pound” can of coffee is now 28 ounces but still costs the same amount. And how about that “half-gallon” of ice cream that’s now 1.5 quarts? Though it’s not limited to food products, this trick is prevalent in supermarkets.
Know your weights and measures as well as your prices. Pay attention to the unit price listed on the shelf (the cost per ounce, for example).
If the item has shrunk, try a different brand or wait for a sale.
8. Food court
Of course, it’s convenient, but it also keeps you at the mall or big box store. Just think about how many stores like Walmart and Target have added a food type court to their stores. Yes, food courts are great shopping triggers.
Leave the place once you have what you need. If you do eat at the food court, leave right after.
Home Chef is like having your own personal shopper and sous chef. The meals are wonderful, so easy to prepare—and versatile. I have enjoyed your feedback, the ways you are figuring out how to enjoy Home Chef while at the same time make the service work to cut overall food costs …
9. Milk in the back
This trick is as old as they come, yet it will get you every time if you’re not mentally prepared.
Supermarkets typically put the quick pickup items of milk and eggs way at the back of the store. This forces you to go through the store, exposing you to all kinds of other items that might grab your attention.
What was supposed to be a quick stop for milk turns out to be bags filled with other stuff you couldn’t resist.
Make a beeline for what you want and leave. Or bring only enough cash for what you know you need.
10. Cosmetics near shoes
These are the two top purchase areas for female mall shoppers. Retailers know that while you’re waiting for the clerk to bring shoes to try on, your eyes will wander. Those two minutes are highly profitable, Underhill told me because many women will wander over to cosmetics afterward. And the more mirrors on the counter, the more likely you’ll be to buy. Why?
Simply catching your image in a mirror reminds you just how much you need new lipstick, he says.
Buy the shoes and get out of there. Or the makeup. Rarely will you arrive needing both.
11. Helpful salespeople
Who doesn’t like a helpful sales clerk or invitation to “live chat?” But just know that because, according to Underhill, “The more shopper-employee contact, the greater the average sale.”
Seek help only if you really need it.
12. Clever wording
Stores count on the fact that most people assume words like “Special!” or “Hot Deal!” mean the same as “On Sale!” Don’t believe it. A big display of picnic food items with a sign announcing, “Summer Blowout!” is not necessarily filled with great bargains.
Keep track of the regular prices of the items you buy most often; you’ll know right away if it’s really a sale.
If you’re not sure, check the shelf label for the regular price or ask a store employee.
There you have it—12 shopping triggers you need to know and then keep at the front of your mind no matter where your shopping may be. Remember these are guiding principles—tactics you can easily translate to stores like Hobby Lobby, Home Depot, Walmart, and Target.
Once you cross the threshold into that store or make the first click on the website, you’re being targeted for persuasion. Get smart, stay fully aware!
Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon affiliated sites.
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Worried you missed out on all the After Christmas sales? Well, dry your tears because some of the best sales of the year are going live this month in retail and online stores everywhere.
January is the ideal time of the year to go bargain hunting for these 13 things:
1. Bedding and Towels
White sales traditionally show up in January. Expect big discounts on most bedding, bath, and home essentials. Stores can often offer from up to 50% off to up to 75% off select bedding, bath, and other items during a white sale. Here are the types of items you’ll likely see at white sales:
Most everyone starts a New Year with resolutions and intentions to get his or her life in order, but if you can stay organized until mid-January without a calendar, expect to save over 50% on most calendars and planners.
Jan. 4, is National Spaghetti Day. So why would that matter when it comes to bargain hunting? In the past, nationally known restaurants have offered super deals (sometimes it’s been on the house!) on a plate of spaghetti—a good indication of what we can expect this year, too:
Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Maggiano’s Little Italy
You can be sure that the end of football season ushers in the kickoff for great television deals as retailers gear up for the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, 2020. Based on past years’ performances, you should expect retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Costco, and others to offer rock bottom prices towards the end of January—an excellent time to score a bargain.
I can’t believe it’s 2020—a brand New Year, and, new decade, too (with apologies to those who see 2020 as the last year of the last decade)! The year 2019 has been an absolute whirlwind here at EC Central—a year filled with growth, joy, and bright new horizons.
Believing that it’s always a good thing to look back to see where we’ve been and to count the blessings—here is a roundup of the 10 most popular Everyday Cheapskate posts in 2019. What was your favorite?
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Shopping is my thing. I love the thrill of the hunt, that feeling of discovery and the joy of a bargain. I find it satisfying in ways I can’t fully describe. I want to experience the feeling as often as possible. Shopper’s high is no joke. It’s real, it’s palpable, and it’s addictive.
Shopping got me into a lot of trouble. In just 12 years I ran up more than $100,000 in consumer debt—most of it on credit cards. Eventually, all of it came crashing down and nearly took me with it. Thankfully, that crisis became the catalyst to turn my life around.
It took 13 years to repay all of the debt. I learned a lot about myself in the process but mostly that the satisfaction I got from shopping was short-lived. It was fake because it vanished in less time than it took me to get the stuff to the car. But that just set me up to do it again and again because the small bursts of joy I got from shopping were worth the pain that always followed.
Crazy I know, but absolutely true. I could so easily go back to my old ways, and that’s scary.
So, what keeps me on the straight and narrow? It’s you! You’re my shopping addiction rehab program. Paying off that monstrous debt and these past 28 years of writing, researching, and communicating with you on a daily basis have become the best maintenance program I could hope for.
And the best part? I get to use my shopping skills nearly every day, but now in a constructive way.
Take the email I got from Jeannine who asked simply, “What is the best inexpensive Bluetooth speaker?” Just like that, I flew into shopping mode—that thing I love to do because it brings me uncanny satisfaction.
But here’s the deal: I’m not shopping for myself. I’m not spending my money or creating a bit of debt. I’m researching for Jeannine and that frees me from all of the personal negative stuff. I get to experience the joys of shopping that I love so much without any of the remorse or regret, guilt or shame. That’s authentic, lasting satisfaction. I love my job.
I did go shopping for Jeannine and a few other readers whose requests showed up at about the same time.
Bluetooth and wireless speakers let you bring your favorite music, podcasts and audiobooks with you wherever you go, whether you’re out on a hike or in the kitchen doing dishes—without the need to use headphones or depend on the phone’s or iPad’s microscopic built-in speaker. My pick for the best inexpensive Bluetooth speaker is Anker SoundCore. This thing is amazing with 24-hour playtime, low distortion and superior sound.
Coffee lovers are discriminating when it comes to both quantity and temperature of their favorite brew. Zojirushi Silky Black Stainless Steel 16-ounce Mug represents the gold standard. There is no finer. Retains heat so well it comes with a 5-year warranty on heat retention! And did I mention 16-ounces? No wonder this coffee mug has earned so many 5-star reviews. It’s that lovely!
These days children start very young with electronic devices. The problem though is that kids are kids and most smartphones and tablets are too delicate to handle toddler abuse. With that in mind, my pick for your favorite little ones is Kids Amazon Fire Edition Tablet. This is the real deal—not a toy, but built like one because it is all but indestructible.
This tablet has a 7-inch screen, 16 GB, Wi-Fi and all of it surrounded by a kid-proof case then wrapped up in a 2-year worry-free guarantee. If it breaks for any reason, return it and you’ll get a free replacement no questions asked. Complete with front and rear cameras, best-in-class parental controls.
One year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited gives access to 10,000 kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and content from PBS Kids, Nickelodeon, Disney and more. Wow. I want one.
This must be the gift of the year given all the people I know who are dying to get one. Worn, Fitbit Charge 3 continuously monitors heart pulse, calorie burn, and heart rate. 7-Day battery life. Automatically tracks how long and how well you sleep and even wakes you up with a silent vibrating alarm. Fitbit Charge 3 comes complete with GPS that allows you to see real-time stats when you run—things like pace and distance, all while on your wrist. It even displays the time, just like something from the olden days called a wristwatch. For sure, Fitbit is stylish, hip and cool.
Don’t you hate it when your phone or other device dies and you’re nowhere near an outlet? So did the creators of this amazing little RAVPower Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank. Just plug your device into it and you’ll get a super quick charge. About the size of an index card, this thing has a huge capacity. Colossal battery: 22000mAh capacity, a single charge powers an iPhone X 4.9 times, a Galaxy S8 4.4 times, or an iPad mini 4, 2.6 times. Two USB ports allow you to charge two devices at a time. 5.8A Output 3-Port (iSmart 2.0 USB Ports). Compatible with iPhone 11/Pro/Max/ 8/ X/XS, Samsung S10.
Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon affiliated sites.
Just about everyone who shops online knows to look for a discount, promotional code, or coupon of some kind before hitting checkout. According to Statista, in 2016 126.8 million U.S. adults redeemed online coupons, a number that’s projected to grow to 145.3 million users by 2021. But digital coupons are only one of 11 ways to get the biggest discounts and best deals this holiday season.
Making it a personal commitment that you won’t buy anything online without a coupon code is something you’ll be able to carry out, almost flawlessly. Coupons and codes are out there if you know where to look. A simple Google search is one way. Another is to visit sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com. Totally stumped? Contact customer service or the online chat feature and kindly ask for a code. A simple “Is there anything you can do for me?” has been known to work very well.
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Years ago, I read in The New York Times that according to Yankelovich Research, the average American adult is the target of some 3,500 commercial ads in a single day. More recently that estimate has been adjusted upward to 5,000. How outrageous is that? Sure, we live in a highly commercialized society but 5,o00 commercial ads? In a single day? I figured that had to be a gross exaggeration.
I decided to conduct my own test. I would count the ads I heard or saw in my typical day. I knew it wouldn’t come anywhere close to 5,o00. Or even 3,500.
The next morning the radio alarm sounded and before I could even open my eyes, I needed to put two hash marks on my score pad. So prolific were the ads on television I could barely keep an accurate count and get ready for the day at the same time.
Of course, I had to count every message, banner, business placard, real estate sign, billboard, license plate frame, bumper sticker, commercial vehicle, and bus I saw on the way to work all the while being careful not to miss any radio ads. Good thing I wasn’t driving.
Reading the newspaper boosted my count significantly as did flipping through a few magazines. Have you ever counted the ads in a typical magazine? Try it sometime.
https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/wp-content/uploads/frustrated-business-woman-holding-his-hands-to-PFTQL3E.jpg6671000Maryhttps://www.everydaycheapskate.com/wp-content/uploads/EC-Logo-by-Mary-Hunt-Tagline-Trimmed-833x159.pngMary2019-11-16 00:01:152020-05-24 22:21:19Want What You Have, Buy What You Need
You think shopping is what you do when you buy things. That’s true, but it’s more than that. Shopping is a competition with you on one side and retailers on the other. And whenever the store gets more of your money than you planned to leave behind, they’ve executed a brilliant shopping trick. They win.
What follow are the tricks that retailers don’t want you to know. Learn them well and you’ll you’ll turn the tables on them. You’ll start winning at the shopping game!
TRICK: Buy only the loss-leaders and get out of there
A loss leader is something retailers sell so cheap, they’re losing money on the deal. Buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) is a great example. It’s like bait to get you into the store because they know if they can do that, you’ll buy other stuff at full price. The trick is to take just enough cash so you can buy up all of the loss leaders you will use and then get out of there.
Why stores hate this trick. Retailers hold sales to increase their cash flow—not to save you money. They do anything they can to get you through the door. Statistics tell them that once you’re in the door, there is a high statistical likelihood that you will pick up enough full-priced items to more than make up for that loss leader. It’s a risk on their part and when you don’t follow their plan, they lose. You win.
With the year’s biggest shopping season now coming into clear view, it’s time to gather our wits, sharpen our resolve, and determine to know everything we possibly can about how to save money. Today I want to show you an online shopping hack that will help stretch your holiday dollars until they scream!
I used to love a good shopping mall. But those days are long gone and I don’t miss them one bit since I’ve discovered the joys and convenience of online shopping. In fact, I’ll do just about anything to avoid having to go inside a mall. Or even a grocery store.
I’m going to walk you through the basic steps of an incredibly easy way to save money shopping online, using an actual purchase I made as an example.
https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/wp-content/uploads/14386525_s.jpg565848Maryhttps://www.everydaycheapskate.com/wp-content/uploads/EC-Logo-by-Mary-Hunt-Tagline-Trimmed-833x159.pngMary2019-10-20 00:09:442020-03-17 14:16:02An Incredibly Easy Way to Save Money Shopping Online
Need a foolproof way to cut your food/grocery expenses by 25% this month? Announce to your family that there will be a complete ban on the consumption of food during the first week of every month. There. That should do it!Twenty-five percent right off the top.
What?! Don’t think you can pull that off? Me either, but not to worry. Here are some much less painful—and I hope a bit more realistic—ways to chop the high cost of food.
Create a shopping list
Do this at home when you are hungry. You will be more creative and thorough.
You will be compelled to buy everything in sight regardless of what’s on your list. Tip: If you can’t avoid it, head to the bakery a pick up a cookie or grab a protein bar on your way in. That will be enough to silence your hunger and clear your mind.
Leave the kids at home
You will stick to your shopping list with much less frustration and stress if you fly solo.
Avoid convenience or specialty stores
You won’t find many bargains there.
Online grocery shopping is the latest and greatest for many (me!). It keeps me out of the supermarket where, even with a list, I’m an impulsive disaster just waiting to happen. I shop at KingSoopers (part of the Kroger Family of stores) and pay a flat fee of $4.95 per order for its Pick Up service, or now free for orders of $35 or more. Walmart offers its groceries online program with free same-day pickup is now available at hundreds of Walmart stores nationwide (store locator). Walmart does not charge a pickup fee but has a minimum order requirement of $30.
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I should not have even picked it up. I knew better. After all, what was I expecting from a magazine titled simply, SHOP Etc.?
I can say with all honesty that before flipping open the magazine, I needed nothing. Not a thing. I was content and quite busy with my work. If anything was tugging at my attention it was my garden and all my planting issues—not a lack of shoes, clothes, and household items.
In the space of just a few minutes, everything changed. Just like that, I needed new shoes (Kors, $235), sunglasses in the hot purple shade for summer (Prada, $245) and of course The Cutest Suit (J. Crew, $296).
And once I realized the new must-haves for the kitchen, everything I have now seemed completely unacceptable and hopelessly out of style. I need new Czech goblets (Crate and Barrel, $8.95 each), a stainless steel sink (Kohler, $1,815) and faucet (Essex, $385). Don’t even get me started on all the things I realized I need for my bedroom, patio and living areas. How naïve I was only a few minutes earlier feeling content and quite satisfied with my life. A mere 164 pages later, I was filled with inadequacy and discontentment.
When did you last hold a $50 bill in your hand? The new ones look strange … faintly colored, graphically random.
You should pick one up some time to reacquaint yourself with something called U.S. currency. Look closely. It still reads: This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.
Here’s my question: Does pumping my own gasoline at Costco constitute a debt, either public or private?
Between the moment my gas tank is full and the moment I actually pay for the gas, I owe Costco some money. I have incurred a momentary debt, and it seems to me I should be able to pay it with my U.S. currency.
Just try. In fact, at Costco filling stations my only choice is to pay with plastic—even though there are plenty of human attendants readily available.
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