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Don’t Fall for Retail Spending Traps

It has happened to all of us at one time or another; you go shopping for one specific item and come home with bags of things you never planned on buying because the deals were too good to pass up. When that happens, it’s because you got caught in one or more retail spending traps. Stores know how to tempt you into spending more than you planned, but we’re going to tell you what to watch out for so it doesn’t happen again. Take a look at these common retail spending traps.

Misleading Signage — It’s hard to resist the lure of a bold sign promising a big discount, but beware of misleading signs in stores. One common trick is to place signs on a rack where only a portion of the items are discounted, and everything else is full price. But because of where the sign is placed, you assume the whole rack is on sale and don’t bother to check. By the time you reach the register, you’ve become attached to the item and don’t notice or are willing to overlook it’s not on sale like you thought it was. The fix for this is to read all signs carefully and look beyond the offer toward the bottom of the sign for smaller print that lists more details about which items are actually on sale and which are excluded from the discount. Also, many stores now have price scanners located in various places so you can check the price yourself before you reach the register.    Department store window with potential misleading sale signs

Buy One, Get One (BOGO) Offers — There are a number of retailers who build entire promotions based around these deals, which usually require you to buy one item at full price and get the second item for 50% off. It might sound like a great deal, but it’s really not. When you do the math, it ends up being a savings of just 25% per item, which isn’t quite as impressive. Additionally, you’re always going to get the discount on the lowest priced item. So if you buy two higher priced items and two lower priced items, you’re still paying full price for the most expensive items. If you happen to run across a BOGO FREE deal, you’ll actually be seeing some real savings. But, be sure you’re still only buying what you need; over-buying just because it’s a deal negates the savings.

Special Deals for Store Cardholders — We’ve already talked about some of the downsides of retail credit cards, including high interest rates and low credit limits. But many people are enticed into opening them because of instant discounts, earning points toward rewards and other ‘exclusive cardholder benefits.’ The only way it makes sense to open a retail credit card is if you pay off the balance in full every month so you don’t incur any interest. If you carry a balance, you’re negating any of the savings you receive for being a cardholder. If you have any doubt that you won’t be willing or able to pay the balance in full every month, do not open the card.

Coupons Good on Return Visits — Another popular way stores get you to come back and spend more than you planned is to give you coupons or ‘bucks’ — such as Old Navy’s Super Cash — to use on a future shopping trip. This might not be such a bad idea, except that there is almost always a minimum purchase requirement before the discount kicks in, and they will usually suspend all other markdowns or sales during the time period the coupons can be redeemed, so you’re not saving as much as you could if you were allowed to ‘stack’ the coupons on top of other offers.

Gifts with Purchase — Mostly occurring during the holiday shopping season, gift with purchase offers are a tried-and-true way stores get you to exceed your planned spending limit. If they gave away the gift with any purchase, that would be one thing. But there’s almost always a minimum purchase required that’s usually impossible to hit without buying multiple items and going over your budget. The only time gifts with purchase help you save money is if the gift ends up being something you needed to purchase anyway. Otherwise, be strong and walk away.