10 Tricks Grocers Use to Get You to Spend More Money

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Have you ever planned to run into the grocery store "for a few items," only to emerge an hour later with a shopping cart full of bags? Do you have no idea how you got to that point?

While you are responsible for your extra spending, there are influences at play that may have encouraged you to spend more than you planned.

To be clear, we're not saying stores are duplicitous or nefarious; they're just doing their job, and their job is to get you to buy as much stuff as possible. But when you're aware of their secrets, it's a lot easier to resist the lure and stick to your budget. Here are 10 tricks of the trade to watch out for.

1. Putting Produce Front and Center

There's a reason fruits and veggies are the first thing you see when you walk into any grocery store; it's because stores know that when you stock up on healthy food first, you won't feel bad about splurging on some (higher-profit) junk food later on.

2. Taking You on a Trip

Speaking of layout, ever notice that the basic items you need the most often (bread, eggs, milk, meat) are always at the ends and back of the grocery store, so you have to do a whole lap to stock up on them? That's intentional; stores are hoping you'll see some items you weren't planning on buying during your journey and decide to impulsively throw those into your cart as well.

3. Giving Away Freebies

Free samples are a twofold strategy. First, if you like what you try, there's a good chance you'll buy it. Second, things like sample giveaways and cooking demonstrations encourage you to linger longer in the store-and lingering can lead to more purchases.

4. Ending Prices With a 9

Research has shown that people are more likely to buy an item if it ends with the number 9, especially if you round down one cent from an even price. A $9.99 bottle of olive oil seems more affordable to us than a $10, because that extra cent (even though it's only one cent) pushes the item up into the next price bracket in our minds.

5. Upping the Ambiance

Bright lights, relaxing music, colorful display and the link are designed to put you in a better mood and encourage you to take your time and linger -- the result, again, being more spending. Likewise, the lack of windows in a grocery store allow you to lose sense of time, as you can't get time cues from natural sunlight.

6. Targeting Your Eye Level

Items at eye level are the easiest to spot and the first to grab our attention, so stores often place their higher-margin goods in this zone. Take a good look up and down the shelves, and you'll spot plenty of similar items that cost less.

7. Putting Like Items Together

Chips and dip are always in the same aisle, as are pasta and pasta sauce. Soda is usually right near chips and other snack foods. While this seems nice and convenient for us as shoppers, it's also a tactic to get us to buy more because in our minds, it seems to make more sense to grab one as long as you're grabbing the other.

8. Giving You More Carrying Capacity

It's been shown that doubling the size of a store's shopping carts can lead shoppers to buy as much as 40 percent more. Some stores also place shopping baskets throughout their store so that if you came in to grab a handful of items and your hands are full, you can easily buy more just by picking up a basket.

9. Seemingly Hot Sales

Colorful stickers on shelves draw your eye to items that are currently on sale, and it's hard to resist the pull of a good bargain. But those items aren't necessarily the best deal. Just because something is half-off or "buy one, get one," that doesn't mean you can't find a similar item (especially a generic) that's cheaper, even though it's full-price.

10. Tempting You at the Checkout Line

When you're waiting in line for the cashier, your eye naturally wanders over the gum, candy and snacks along the checkout line. They're small things, and they seem cheap enough, so it's easy to toss them into your cart without thinking much of it. They're almost always discretionary items and impulse purchases.

How to Resist Temptation

With this said, how can savvy shoppers resist the well-planned lure of temptation? Here are a few tips to make your grocery store shopping a success.

1. Shop With a List

Don't enter a store unless you're armed with a list of things you plan to buy during that trip. Don't deviate from that list, even if you see a tempting sale or notice something along an aisle that makes you think, "Hmm, I could probably use that..." If you spot an item that you want to buy, force yourself to return to the store on a future trip to get the item. There's a good chance you won't want it anymore.

2. Do the Math

Use the calculator on your smartphone to figure out the unit price of an item. (Some stores will display it in the corner of the price sticker on the shelf.) This will help you determine if a sale item is really a good deal or not.

3. Limit Your Carrying Capacity

If you only need three things, don't get a basket. If you only need 10 things, get a basket or one of those small two-tier miniature carts. Don't give yourself the ability to buy more; when you've reached your carrying capacity, it's time to check out.

4. Stay Laser-Focused

Head straight for the things on your list, and don't let your eyes wander at flashy end caps or nearby items on the shelves. Imagine you're on a mission to see how little time you can spend in the store. Get in, get what you need, and go home.

Paula Pant is an entrepreneur and real estate investor who has traveled to 32 countries. Her blog Afford Anything is not the same tired, stodgy, uninspired financial advice that you'll find on other websites. Afford Anything shows you how to crush limits, create wealth and maximize life.
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