Published in: Banks | Jan. 31, 2019

6 Ways Retailers Convince You to Spend More Money

By:  Lyle Daly

We are committed to full transparency as part of our mission to make the world smarter, happier, & richer. You should know that offers on The Ascent may be from our partners - it's how we make money. That transparency to you is core to our editorial integrity, which isn’t influenced by compensation.

Don’t get fooled the next time you go shopping. Learn the tricks and techniques retailers use to cause you to spend more.

Couple comparing cleaning products in a store aisle.

Image source: Getty Images

Just about all of us have had those months where we spend while shopping more than we would have liked. Months when even with a budget, our best-laid plans go awry and our bank accounts pay the price.

It’s easy to just chalk this up to overspending, but that’s not the whole story. Retailers have all kinds of methods to encourage you to buy more. But if you know what these methods are, you can prevent yourself from falling for them.

1. Free shipping for spending a minimum amount

If you’ve ever shopped online, then you’ve probably seen this one. The retailer offers free shipping, but only if your order hits a spending minimum.

All of a sudden, you’re looking for other items you can tack on to bump your order over that minimum and avoid paying for shipping. When you’re not careful, you may end up spending $15 or $20 more to save less than $10.

There’s nothing wrong with spending more to get free shipping if you’re adding items you need. Just make sure you can actually use everything you’re buying and not wasting money on knickknacks.

2. Offering a discount for subscribing to their newsletters

It seems like a good deal at the time. Provide your email address, and the retailer will give you 10% or 20% off your first order. Once the retailer has your email, they’ll start sending you deals every chance they get.

The idea is that with enough enthusiastic sales emails, at least one will eventually catch your eye and get you to come shop again.

Go ahead and get the discount, but don’t forget to unsubscribe later if you’re getting bombarded with emails.

3. Strategic item placement

Item placement may not be something we think about much, but you can bet that retailers think about it. Here are just a few of the ways stores are strategic about where they put products:

  • Smaller, inexpensive items are put near the checkout to encourage impulse buys.
  • More expensive brands are on the eye-level shelves, whereas the cheaper brands are on the bottom shelves that you need to kneel down to reach.
  • The biggest discounts are towards the front of the store to draw in customers.

Even though you can’t exactly counteract this, you can make yourself less susceptible to it by having a plan for what you want to buy each time you go shopping.

4. Free samples

Free samples are simple enough, and depending on your point of view, they’re either the best or most annoying part of going to Costco. A retailer gives you a small snack in the hope that you’ll decide to buy an entire package of whatever’s being offered.

These can actually be a good way to try new foods that you may like, as long as you aren’t the type to buy everything you try.

5. Store credit cards

All kinds of retailers are offering their own store credit cards now, since it’s an easy way to boost customer spending and loyalty. Store credit cards usually earn points you can redeem for gift certificates, and they may also include sign-up bonuses and zero-interest financing offers.

A store credit card can be worth it, but only certain cards, and only when you shop at the store in question frequently. Before you apply for one, compare it to some of the best credit cards, which tend to have more versatile benefits.

6. Product suggestions

When you’re on a product page and you see a “you may also like” section, that’s not the retailer trying to be helpful. It’s another way to convince you to buy more than you were originally planning on buying.

Like many sales strategies, this isn’t completely nefarious. Those product suggestions can be useful on occasion, if you take them with a grain of salt and don’t let them influence your buying decisions.

Shopping smart

Retailers put a lot of time and money into figuring out ways to make you part with your money. If you have trouble sticking to your budget, it can help to know what to look out for before your next trip to the store.

Savings account rates are skyrocketing -- Earn 23x your bank

Many people are missing out on guaranteed returns as their money languishes in a big bank savings account earning next to no interest. Our picks of the best online savings accounts can earn you more than 25x the national average savings account rate. Click here to uncover the best-in-class picks that landed a spot on our shortlist of the best savings accounts for 2019.