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Department store window with potentially misleading sale signs

It happens to all of us at one time or another; you go shopping for one specific item and come home with things you never planned on buying. When that happens, it’s because you fell into common 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 on sale and everything else is full price. Because of where the sign appears, you assume the whole rack is on sale. By the time you reach the register, you’re willing to overlook the item isn’t 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 excluded from the discount. Also, many stores now have price scanners in various places so you can check the price yourself before you reach the register.    Store signs that could lead consumers into a retail spending trap

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’ll always get the discount on the item with the lowest price. 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 open them because of instant discounts, rewards and other benefits. The only way it makes sense to open a retail credit card is if you pay off the balance in full every month. If you carry a balance, you’re negating any of the savings you receive for being a cardholder. If you have any doubt you won’t 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.  Plus, they will usually suspend all other markdowns or sales during the time period the coupons can be redeemed. So you won’t save as much as you could if stores allowed you to ‘stack’ the offers.

Gifts with Purchase

Gift with purchase offers are one of the most effective retail spending traps. If they gave away the gift with any purchase, that would be one thing. But there’s almost always a minimum purchase requirement.  The only time gifts with purchase help you save money is if the gift ends up being something you were going to purchase anyway. Otherwise, be strong and walk away.

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