13 Tricks To Spend Less When Shopping

I think most of us are aware about a few of the retailer tricks, but on closer inspection you’d be surprised how deep they’ve delved into our psyche to trick us into spending more than we intend. We are being bombarded with tricks left, right and centre when we’re out shopping, so let’s break them down to stay ahead of the game!

Leave the kids at home

It is thought that on average, taking your kids shopping with you will make you spend 29% more than you budgeted for. My mum would definitely agree with this from her experiences with me. Every time her back was turned I’d add something else to the trolley that hadn’t been budgeted for, by the time we had got to the checkout she’d be putting things on the conveyor belt and looking at them thinking “did i really choose this” whilst I put my surprised face into full practice. Don’t do it to yourselves folks, leave the kids at home!

Partners are bad for your pocket too

Yes that’s right, partners make you spend more too if you take them shopping with you, 19% more on average. This is most certainly the case in our household, my partner is conned by “special offers”, never takes a list and comes out with a whole raft of stuff we just don’t need. I’m the total opposite (well now that it comes out of my money anyway – sorry mum), I go in and leave with exactly what I went in for. If you want to stick to your list and budget, leave your partner at home.

Don’t use a trolley

Less room means less stuff, simple. People who carry their shopping spend 8% less on average. Now, this obviously won’t apply if you are doing your monthly shop, in which case make a list and don’t deviate away from it. Always use the “six P’s” when shopping – Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!

Carry 50’s

Ludicrous! I hear you say. However, psychologically you’re less likely to want to break a big note over a smaller one. If you have five £10 notes you will break one or more, but you’re more likely to savour that beautiful crisp £50 note!

Don’t become best friends with the retail staff

This is one that I got caught out with majorly. I have rather large thighs and often find it difficult to find a pair of jeans to fit me these days (seriously have boys legs started to deteriorate or something???). I refuse to jump on the skinny jeans bandwagon, in my opinion they’re better suited to ladies, however, I was discussing my concerns with a retail assistant in Top Man a few years back, I was unsure that the jeans I was looking at would fit after the jeans had been washed, you know how they always get tighter, right?

He assured me that his brother was in the same boat and that he had recommended the very same jeans to him and he loved them. I bought into his sales shizzle, trusting him like a cherished friend and I instantly bought three pairs, only to return a few days later an unhappy man with three sets of jeans that I could no longer get past my knees!

The retails assistants are not your best friend, don’t be fooled by their Jedi mind tricks!

Don’t use their own reusable bags

I can already feel the eyes of the Green activists boring into my head, so let me explain. Find one yourself, buy it and take that instead. Have you ever noticed the size of those things when you buy them in store? Psychologically they create a void that needs to be filled, usually with crap you didn’t need or originally plan on buying. Take your own and buy one reasonably sized.

Steer clear of the chill out areas

Anybody who has ever been to an IKEA knows about the lovely comfy chill out areas where shoppers can take a breather before continuing with their shop. This is the retailer’s hot-hot-hot spot for inventory that hasn’t been shifting. Whilst you think you may be simply taking a breather, you’re actually weighing up buying stuff you don’t need. Get it over with ASAP and chill out at home!

Be aware of comparatively pricey luxury items

The “compromise effect” is most popular in discount clothing stores and electronics retailers, where they try to get you to pay extra for a better brand. It works by putting a higher end product next to a cheaper one, for example – putting a Versace jacket costing £400 next to a cheaper, but very similar jacket by a lesser known brand for £350, to tempt the customers to pay the extra for the higher end product. And it’s not just in store they use this trickery, it’s just as effective online too!

Don’t be fooled by the left-digit-effect

Nobody really likes to believe that they could be tricked into buying something just because it is £9.99 instead of £10, however, studies say otherwise. Back in 2009 researchers at the Colorado State University, and Washington State University conducted a study where participants were asked to evaluate two identical pens. One priced at $2, the other at $3.99 – incredibly 44% of participants opted for the most expensive pen believing it was a better deal.

The difference of 1p can turn a window shopper into a buying customer so stay alert!      

“Free” shipping

Let’s face it, nothing in life is free, and that goes for free shipping too. If you have to spend over a certain limit for it to be free, then it really isn’t free at all and the chances are you have just bought a whole load of stuff you didn’t actually need.

Open-the-wallet items

Ever wondered why half priced goodies are left in baskets outside the shop door? They’re designed to break the psychological barrier between you and buying. As the cost of living has gone up and the after effects of the financial crisis had hit, we became more cautious with our spending, and those crafty retailers needed something to get us to buy. Beware of the open-the-wallet items.

Stay cautious when digging for treasure

Big department stores and supermarkets will often have huge baskets with a whole range of goodies for us to dig through. The reason they do this is to make you dig harder, tricking you into thinking you have found something that everyone has missed. More than likely your hidden treasure is one of many in a store cupboard that couldn’t be sold first time around! Don’t end up leaving with a load of stuff you didn’t need thinking you have got yourself a bargain, it’s not a bargain if you spent £30 more than you intended.

Can I also interest you in…

NO! Those checkout staff are super trained to up-sell you at any given chance. Be mindful of what you’re being offered and be vigilant when making any decisions on purchases you simply do not need.


Have you ever fell victim to retailer tricks when out shopping?

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David Naylor is the editor of the Thinking Thrifty blog. An award winning personal finance and lifestyle blogger, he shows how it is possible to live extremely well for less.
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13 thoughts on “13 Tricks To Spend Less When Shopping

  1. “Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance” – I can’t stop laughing!

    True though! We’ve always said, Fail to plan – plan to fail. In that vein, meal planning isn’t our strong suit, but it’s a challenge I look forward to tackling in the near future!
    Pia @ Mama Hustle recently posted…Why We MUST Talk About MoneyMy Profile

    1. Hahaha it is one of my favourite sayings Pia! And very true lol. Liking fail to plan, plan to fail too, I may have to borrow that one.

    1. I literally drove my poor mother crazy with it as a kid. Plus, she had already checked to make sure there were no traces of nuts (my brother is allergic) and certain E numbers that sent my youngest brother and I crazy! How I’m still here to be telling the tale is a minor miracle hahaha

  2. Here’s another two great tips:
    1) Eat before you go shopping, or rather, don’t ever go shopping when you are hungry. You tend to stick more food in your trolley (I mean basket) when you are feeling peckish.
    2) Shop to the recipe. You save a lot by planning your meals then shopping only to what you need. Falls under your planning mantra I guess.

    I often also find when I’m in a rush I tend to run in, grab what I need and get out. Perhaps setting a game for yourself to time your shopping trips and see how fast you can get it done would mean you’ll focus more on grabbing what you need and do less browsing.
    Lloyd Phillips recently posted…Start a Blog in 4 Simple StepsMy Profile

    1. Hey Lloyd thanks for reading and commenting. Eating before shopping is a great one! Shopping to the recipe too is another good tip, I do use this one as I make meal plans these days to stop me being lazy and ordering take aways!

    1. I’m originally from Middleton just down the road from Bury – small world! I live in Timperley these days, out in the suburbs, but would much rather be living in the states! That’s my end goal 🙂

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