Tips to Make You a Savvy Shopper

With a little know-how, it's possible to avoid sales tactics used by retailers and spot truly good deals.

By Navy Federal December 17, 2015

Have you ever found yourself going to the grocery store intending to buy just one or two essential items, but end up walking away with a whole cart of stuff you don't need? Retailers have an arsenal of strategies for making sure you leave their stores with more than you intended to buy. You're probably familiar with the more obvious sales tactics, like displaying pricier items at eye-level and featuring impulse items like candy bars and magazines in the checkout line. However, other strategies may be more difficult to recognize.

By being aware of the subtle factors that drive consumers to buy, you can use that information to your advantage and shop wisely.

Beware of these seven sly sales strategies:

  1. Temptation at every turn

    When stores place the milk and eggs at the back of the store, it's no accident. Having to walk down the aisles to get to your basics makes it more likely you'll pick up an impulse buy. To avoid this sly tactic, before you shop, write down exactly what you plan to buy and stick to your list.

  2. Scents to put you in the mood for shopping

    Retailers know that a tempting smell can be the fastest way to your wallet, and studies from Psychology Today confirm that people spend more when the scent of a store triggers positive associations. In this case, don't stop to smell the roses—or muffins, cookies or freshly baked bread.

  3. Snacks for sale while you shop

    More and more superstores are adding fast food restaurants. The goal isn't only to turn a profit on coffee drinks or to keep you fueled for shopping. Retailers know that the sight and smell of treats will make everything more tempting. Try to have a snack before you go shopping. You'll be less tempted to indulge at the store.

  4. Time pressure

    By putting a deadline on the best deals, such as early morning specials, stores create a sense of urgency. You'll be less likely to reconsider a purchase and more likely to throw nonessential items into your cart. Don't give in to the pressure. There will always be another sale.

  5. The giveaway

    Stores will often advertise or prominently display items that are deeply discounted. The trick here is to stun you with a price so low, you won't doubt the value of other items. Remember to check and compare prices.

  6. Enticing music

    Even your sense of hearing may be used to persuade you according to the American Psychology Association. Retailers know that music with a slow rhythm tends to make you move slower, meaning you'll spend more time in the store. Wear a watch or keep an eye on the time; being aware of the time you spend shopping will help you avoid distraction.

  7. "Buy one, get one free" (BOGO) offers

    BOGO deals are designed to make you buy more than you intended, allowing retailers to move more product. A BOGO offer ensures you'll buy twice as much product as someone enjoying 50 percent off one item. Buy only what you need to avoid overspending.

With a little know-how, it's possible to play it smart and avoid sales tactics used by retailers and still walk away with great deals.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.