Grocery stores employ sneaky tactics to get shoppers to buy more than is necessary, which can derail even the most thorough shopping list. Stick to your list and budget better by being aware of the following six tricks and how to avoid them.
1. The store's layout forces you to browse items that are probably not on your list.
It's hard to resist the temptation of beautifully arranged flowers or the smell of freshly baked bread, which is exactly why these pleasing, yet non-essential, impulse buys are placed near the entrance of the grocery store, while you still have an empty cart. The items you most likely came for, such as milk, are stocked in the back of the store, forcing you to walk through several other aisles before getting to the very items that brought you to the store in the first place. If you want to avoid temptation, the trick is to fly by the eye-catching displays as quickly as possible. Instead of hitting each aisle, grabbing items as you go, which can encourage browsing, use your list to guide you through the store, even if it means back-tracking. Having tunnel vision and walking with purpose can save you major cash.
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2. The more expensive the item is, the easier it is to reach.
Most grocery stores are arranged so that customers move from right to left, so the best sellers are usually found on the right side. The most expensive name-brand items are placed eye-level, while the cheaper items are towards the top where it's harder to reach. Despite the tricky layout, sticking to your list that contains not only what you need, but also specific brands can help you stay on target.
3. Bargains are more about moving products than helping consumers.
Studies show that people buy at least 30 percent more than they may have otherwise when they see a sale, so providing deals is a great way for stores to move less popular products or compensate for over-buying. Often this trick benefits consumers too-after all who doesn't love a deal?! But remember: a sale that tempts, "Buy 3 and get the 4th half off" is only truly a deal if you need four of whatever is advertised. If you're on a strict budget, ask yourself if you would buy the product if it wasn't on sale. If the answer is no, chances are you'll be throwing your money away when you end up throwing out the extra food the deal bought you. If the answer is yes, go for it, but remember to adjust your shopping list next time so you don't unnecessarily stockpile a particular good.
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4. Convenience isn't free.
There's no doubt that pre-cut food makes life a little easier-chopped meats are ready to throw on the grill, veggies are perfect for a quick salad, and pre-cut fruits can go straight into lunch sacks. But, remember that you're paying for convenience, even if it doesn't explicitly show up on your receipt. Pre-cut products can be up to twice as expensive as un-cut versions of the same food. If you're looking for a way to save, buy meats and veggies whole and chop them yourself.
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5. Sample stations typically tempt shoppers into buying new and more expensive items.
Everyone likes free samples-especially grocery stores, because it probably means they can better hawk new (typically more expensive) products. Chances are the latest frozen dinner offered at the sample stations wasn't on your list before you entered the store, so automatically buying it can derail your budget. Feel free to enjoy the sample, but take care of your intended shopping list before putting the product in your cart to avoid a regrettable impulse purchase.
6. Music makes you shop longer.
Studies show that 70 percent of purchases are unplanned and usually occur the longer a shopper lingers in the store. So it makes sense that stores would want to make the shopping experience as pleasant as possible in an effort to get you to shop longer. Extensive consumer research has armed stores with knowledge that has informed everything from which paint colors are chosen for the walls to what music is played over the loud speaker. For instance, studies show that music played in a major chord sells more than music in a minor chord and specific beats in songs can slow shoppers down. You might reap the benefits of a pleasant shopping experience, but just know that the music isn't there just so you have a catchy shopping soundtrack. If you just can't stand the thought of these manipulative practices, you can always listen to your own music on an iPod to drown out the store's selection.
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