1. Don't fall for prices ending in 9, 99, or 95.
These so-called charm prices make us think they reflect good deals, author William Poundstone tells Sonya Sobieski of Psychology Today. We also tend to round them down, reading a price like $5.99 as $5, a phenomenon known as the left-digit effect. Poundstone, the author of Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It), also notes that markdowns don't often include these magic numbers. That's because when the discount is easy to calculate, we think it's a better bargain. Thus "Originally $20, now $15" works better than "Originally $20, now $13.97." You'll be more tempted to go with the former, even though the latter saves you more.
2. Steer clear of 99-cent stores.
Not only are they loaded with charm-priced items, obviously, but they have a profit margin twice that of Walmart, Poundstone reveals. One exception: if you live alone or have a small family, reports shopsmartmag.org. These stores often sell pint-size packages of food, allowing those who consume less to avoid waste.
PLUS: 13 Ways You're Paying Too Much
3. Note the missing dollar signs.
According to a Cornell University study quoted at cbsmoneywatch.com, diners spent much less when menus used the word dollars or the dollar sign than when only numerals were used to indicate price.
4. See per-customer limits for what they are: a ploy.
As Vicki Morwitz of New York University's Stern School of Business explains to cbsmoney watch.com, "[People] think, 'Oh, this is scarce, I should buy this,' " when it's probably not.
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