Money Management

Want to Save Money? Stop Falling for These Sales Tactics

avoid sales tricks

It’s sometimes hard to keep your shopping needs in perspective under the constant barrage of advertising and media, and you can slip up while shopping and end up overpaying or buying something you don’t need or even want. When you walk into a retailer you need to have a competitive mindset, it’s you against the store and knowing just what tactics the stores are using to get you to spend more will help you save money. Marketers spend billions of dollars each year analyzing your purchasing habits and the effectiveness of different advertising campaigns. They’ve refined your shopping motivations down to a science and if you know the tricks they’re using you can outmaneuver them on your next shopping trip. Read on here to find the top 9 ways that marketers and the stores you shop at are trying to trick you into spending more money.

Coupon Savings

Wait a minute, you might be saying, coupons aren’t always a good deal? Well, I hate to break it to you but yes, while using coupons can save you money on some items, many times coupon promotions are designed to get you to buy items that you wouldn’t purchase in the first place! Whether it’s a brand you don’t regularly buy because it’s a little more expensive or a new type of product you’ve never used, coupons are typically designed to sell you an item you don’t use regularly and that may be more expensive than other items without a coupon. Coupons make it feel like you’re getting a deal, but you need to be careful that the price you’re paying with a coupon matches what you would normally spend on that item and that the after coupon price is actually a good deal before you buy.

Buy One Get One (or Two or Three) Deals

We’ve probably all taken advantage of buy one get one free sales where you buy one item at full price and get another of the same item for free. These sales typically happen on clothing or shoes, but you see it frequently at the grocery store as well. The trick in this deal is that you end up buying more of something than you normally would. If this deal is for an item you were already planning on purchasing then this might be a great deal for you, but if you feel like buying something just because it is on sale then stop for a moment and consider the item and how much you’d pay for it if there wasn’t a sale. You might find yourself trying to justify buying something just because of the deal and that’s when you know you should probably walk away.

Free Shipping

I love the internet for many reasons (binge watching tv shows is one of them!) but online shopping has to be my favorite thing about the internet. Going to the store and dealing with high pressure sales tactics or having to lug something to the car and then back to the house can be a total pain. Shopping online makes it incredibly easy to buy something and have it shipped right to your door, often times for free. Many online retailers know that the reason you’re shopping online is to get something shipped to you so they may advertise free shipping. When you see a site with totally free shipping, check around to make sure the prices this site is offering are actually worth it or if they’re just passing the shipping cost on to you through the prices of the items they’re selling. Another common tactic is to offer free shipping but with a minimum order of $25, or $50 or $100. This incentivizes you to spend more money and buy more items just to get free shipping, which increases the profitability of your shopping experience for the retailer. Before you start adding random items to your online shopping cart to get free shipping, look at how much shipping costs without meeting the minimum. You might be surprised to find that in many cases the added shipping cost is much less than buying more stuff you don’t need.

Bundle Deals

Let’s say you’re looking for a new camera, and you shop around and find a reasonable price on a bundle that comes with the camera, an extra lens, a bag, some memory cards and a spare battery. Wow, I get the whole starter kit for cheap, that’s great you’re probably thinking! Not so fast, all those extras bundled together with your camera might end up costing you way more than you wanted to spend. If you’re already a photographer, you might already have a perfectly good camera bag at home. Memory cards go on sale all the time from online retailers and you may not need a spare battery. When you break down all the individual parts of the bundle deal you may discover that you really just don’t need most of the extras and if you are willing to look for the camera by itself you could find a better price. While bundle deals sometimes work out in your favor, many times it’s a hidden upsale to get you to spend more than you want.


If you’ve been to a fast food restaurant even once in the last 10 years you’ve likely heard a cashier ask if you want to get a larger size of what you’re ordering for just a few pennies more. Upselling isn’t just relegated to fast food, it’s an extremely common practice at many retailers. The trick is how casually the salesperson asks if you want the upsale. Mentally it’s easier to see what they’re saying and think it’s because they want you to get the best deal. In reality it’s just a way for them to get a little more money out of you for very little effort or cost on their side. Whether your salesperson is recommending a slightly more expensive television or an extra shot of espresso with your morning coffee, be very wary of the upsale and know when the value they’re offering makes sense and when to walk away.

Rewards Programs

The foundation of every rewards program is to keep your loyalty to one store over others. When you have a loyalty program that offers good incentives to keep coming back you are more likely to decide not to shop around for better prices and just buy the items you need at one place. Many rewards programs do give good cash back or future discounts but it’s important you don’t get suckered into not doing your legwork to compare prices. Whether you’re shopping at a drug store, a department store, or for hotels or airline tickets, knowing how to make the most out of loyalty programs while getting a good price on the items you need is a delicate balance. Know where to shop, how to compare the value of different loyalty program currencies, and when a good deal really is a good deal under a loyalty program.

Falling For Sales

Let’s be honest, I love sales. LOVE THEM! I bet you do too. There is nothing wrong with shopping sales but it’s important that when you walk into a store advertising “lowest prices of the season” or “up to 65% off” you are careful not to get suckered into buying stuff at full price. Many stores will use promotions like these to get you in the store only to find that there is only 1 rack of slightly damaged items in the back of the store that is on sale and the rest of the store is full price. The other angle is that stores will advertise great sales but then they have the same great prices many times in a row. For example, I received an email advertising a 40% off one full priced item discount at Banana Republic and hurried in to grab a new sweater. Exactly one week later I got the same email with a new model in the picture for the same 40% off deal again. This happened roughly every other week for 2 months so it was obvious that the deal they offered was just to get you in the door and there really wasn’t any urgency to go shop there to snag the discount. The point I’m making is to be careful with sales because you might end up in the store only to spend money on full price items because the sale items aren’t what you want.

Point of Sale Extras

You see these every time you go to the grocery store. Those candy bars, magazines, lip balm, eyeglass repair kits and other items by the register are all there to inspire you to grab one extra item on your way out of the store. This seemingly innocuous sales tactic has been shown to dramatically influence your purchasing behavior. The items chosen to go at the checkout stand are typically inexpensive and small, but have a huge markup. They’re easy moneymakers for the store and usually aren’t things you came to shop for. Extended warranties are another common add on that can cost up to several hundred dollars for something that many people will not use. Just the other week I went to purchase a new video game as a gift and the clerk tried to sell me an extended warranty on the video game disc. There is basically a zero percent chance I could ever use a warranty for this type of item but the store is still selling one. Be very careful about being tempted into these point of sale extras because these items can crush your budget before you know it.

Psychological Pricing

Careful research has been done to determine what the motivators of consumer purchasing are. One thing that was discovered is that we have an unusual likelihood of thinking that an item priced a few pennies less is a better deal then something priced as an even number. You see this tactic used all the time where an item is priced at $19.99 instead of at $20. The psychological effect of this price difference is that you think you’re getting a better deal even though it costs almost the same as the higher amount. Keep your eyes open for habits like not using a dollar sign or using small font because these are other very common psychological pricing tactics. Remaining aware of the different tricks that merchants are using will help you make good decisions when you are faced with these prices.

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