Don't fall prey to ploys that leave you overextended, cranky and resigned to overspending. Find out three ways retailers fool you into forking over more cash and solutions that'll protect your wallet.
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Trick 1: Clever Mall Floor Plans Large anchor stores in malls are spread apart in the hopes that you'll cover more ground and visit extra shops along the way-the more you see, the more likely you are to buy. It's no wonder you're pooped, crisscrossing from store to store and searching for hard-to-find bathrooms. Plus, the head-thumping soundtrack in some retailers will drive you to hand your kids cash while you wait outside.
The Solution: Plan a sensible, efficient route ahead of time using a map from the mall's website to avoid popping into Victoria's Secret for that $45 negligee that you don't need. Take breaks: Go to the car to drop off bags, breathe and regroup. Also, keep a tally on your phone's calculator of what you've spent or stash all your receipts in an envelope for a quick reality check.
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Trick 2: Food, Food Everywhere
Mall food now tends to be higher-quality and more expensive, and some retailers have added in-store cooking demonstrations. Not only is this a distraction, some research even shows that the better the food, the more you spend when you shop.
The Solution: Fuel up the kids in the car and bring snacks and water bottles in your purse. Aim to park far from the food court and shop after lunch (say, from 1 to 5 P.M.) so you only have minor hunger pangs as you smell that darn pretzel stand.
Trick 3: Far-Off Locations Many outlet malls are located at least 30 miles outside metropolitan centers-and there's a reason for that. The more time and effort you expend getting there, the more determined you'll be to make the trip worthwhile by buying things. Economists call this phenomenon the "sunk cost fallacy": You invest enough that you want some kind of return, so you stick it out and end up spending even more-even though it would be smarter to cut your losses and call it a day.
The Solution: Buying stuff you don't really need after spending all day not finding what you do need is a waste of time and money. Just being aware of this can help. Before you set out, check your closet and list your must-buys. You'll increase the odds of buying only what you need-instead of spending on guilt-inducing items. No sheets on the list? Walk away from that Macy's bedding sale.