The Great Sales Hoax: 5 Tricks Retailers Use To Make You Spend More Money

How often do you “give in” to sales?

In this slowly recovering economy, retailers rely on your impulse buys to boost sales and they look for just about any opportunity to convince you to buy more than you need.

Though some last-minute shopping decisions are legitimately good deals, most impulse buys lead to buyer’s remorse and increased debt.


As with most things in life, knowledge is power, and understanding the retail game will help you gain the upper hand.

Here are five all-too-common sales tactics designed by retailers to tempt you to spend, plus tricks on how to fight the urge to buy.

Sales Gimmicks You Need To Avoid

1. “The more you buy, the more you save!”

I see this phrase (or some variation of it) everywhere these days, from my inbox to billboards to in-store ads.

It’s a pretty convincing statement when paired with such deals as $10 off $50, $20 off $100, or $30 off $150.

Related: How Money Can Buy Happiness

However, when you spend more, you spend more, period. Instead of letting these offers determine your spending, take control of your savings with coupons.

Tools like the Coupon Sherpa mobile app make it easy to browse for deals while shopping in-store, like 15-percent off from JCPenney or $10 off $50 from Sports Authority.

2. “It’s just $49.99!”

From “charm” pricing to “high-low” pricing, there are a variety of tactics that retailers use to fool you with numbers.

A sweater priced at $49.99 is just a penny less than $50, and yet most retailers use the former price because consumers tend to purchase more when prices end with .99 or .95.

Related: Why You Should Stop Focusing On Making Money And Start Building Your Legacy

To combat this, always round up when presented with a price tag that ends with these numbers, and learn your triggers; don’t just buy something because it’s “on sale!”

3. Making you think you fit into a size smaller than you do

Vanity-sizing, tilted mirrors and dim lighting makes you appear tan, slim, and otherwise more attractive than those harsh fluorescents on the showroom floor.

These commonplace retail strategies and dressing room features play to your ego, making you believe whatever garment you’re trying on is a must-have.

This is especially true with vanity sizing, or sizing garments in such a way that many people fit into a size smaller than normal.

Ultimately, sizes vary by brand and are essentially arbitrary, so focus instead on the right fit – both on your body and for your budget.

Related: 6 Ways To Have Body Confidence

4. “Get 5 for $5!”

Ever come home with 10 boxes of pasta even though you just need a single box of linguini? It happens to the best of us as grocery stores play the multiples game to get us to buy more than we need.

The price tag makes it seem like we have to buy in bulk to get the $1-per-box price, but in most cases, you’ll get that rate regardless of how many units you buy.

Unless you have the storage space and family demand for 10 boxes of pasta, leave the shelf-clearing to the extreme couponers and just buy what you need.

5. “Are you a rewards cardholder?”

These days, you can’t complete a transaction without a store credit card pitch, complete with an instant discount of 10 or 15 percent.

Related: Six Steps To Becoming Financially Fit

While this may be tempting, store cards are typically a bad move. In addition to creating a hard inquiry on your credit report (which results in a temporary decrease in your credit score), retail credit cards carry high APRs.

The temptation to spend will be hard to resist with all the special offers and perks you’ll receive as a cardholder, which will make it more difficult to pay off your balance in full every month.

The Takeaway

It’s always good to look out for sales, but only participate when they are saving you money. Retailers are sneaky: these gimmicks make you think you’re saving, but don’t fall for them! Outsmart them and keep your wallet full.


AW_HeadshotAndrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized money-saving expert who helps consumers find simple ways to live on less without making major sacrifices. She regularly contributes to consumer stories with leading news organizations and has worked with Today, Dr. OZ, Good Morning America, CNN, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, Kiplinger Personal Finance, and many more. As an avid writer on personal finance and consumer topics, Andreas’ stories have been published among popular lifestyle and personal-finance websites including AOL’s Daily Finance and CNN. You can follow Andrea on Facebook or Twitter for daily tips and tricks for saving money.

Photo by laikamero

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