Don't Fall for These 4 Tricks That Make You Spend More Money

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  • The CPI report for October 2022 showed that inflation has eased a little.
  • Nevertheless, life is still really expensive.
  • To keep more of your cash, watch out for retailer pricing tricks, ridiculous rebates, and misleading sales signs.

It's more important than ever to shop wisely.

In 2022, life is even more expensive than usual. The October Consumer Price Index report found that inflation was up 7.7% on an annual basis in October (as opposed to September's 8.2% finding, so this is good news). Okay, maybe it's not worth cheering hard for, but let's see how it goes. Ultimately, we're all looking for ways to save money, rather than spend even more. To that end, here are some dirty retail tricks to watch out for.

1. Complicated rebates

Ever buy a product that came with a rebate? A rebate is when you can save money on a purchase, but you must spend the money upfront, and jump through some hoops, and then you'll be refunded part of what you spent. The kinds of hoops you'll be asked to jump through will often be tasks like sending a copy of your receipt, or providing a special code off the item's packaging. These serve to prove that you purchased the item and you're eligible to receive the rebate. But beware rebates that require so much effort that you'll be disinclined to pursue them. And, most important of all -- do not be fooled into thinking that buying an item with a rebate is always automatic.

I get a manufacturer's rebate on my contact lens purchase every year, and while it takes a few minutes to submit photos of my boxes, my receipt, and my eye doctor's information, it can be done via online portal and the gift card I get back often buys me some cat food, litter, and toys (I like using gift cards I receive to pay for everyday things).

2. Misleading signage

Tell me if this has ever happened to you. You're wandering the mall (hello, 1990s!), and you see a sign in a store window that says, "50% Off!" So you rush inside, only to find that items are on sale for up to 50% off. It was on the window sign, incidentally. It was just in tiny print. Retailers are hoping you'll make it inside anyway, and be tempted to buy something at less than 50% off. Another thing to watch out for here is prices ending in nine. Which looks and sounds more affordable?

  • $10.00
  • $9.99

Note that there's only a $0.01 difference between the two prices. But that $9.99 reads like a lot less money, doesn't it?

3. Math tests

Some tricks might prey on your math skills (no shame; I majored in history -- TWICE). For example, I see this at the grocery store often: items on sale for, say, two for $20. But make sure you read the fine print on the little sale slip. You might be able to buy just one for $10.

Another math trick to watch out for is when retailers show you a monthly cost, rather than a total cost. This is also often them hoping you'll sign up to finance a purchase. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that at all. You'll just have to make sure you can afford the payments and if you've got a 0% APR offer, that you'll have the purchase paid off before you owe interest on it. If the retailer you're shopping with only shows you a monthly cost (like, $119.99 per month for 12 months), do the math yourself to know what you'll pay (in the neighborhood of $1,440).

4. Price anchoring

This is one you'll see a lot at discount clothing retailers. You'll find an item with a brand name you've heard of, and the price is $20, down from $35. But was it ever $35? The marketing technique known as price anchoring is used to show you, the buyer, that the item you're buying for $20 is actually worth $35, and you should buy it. It's worth it. But before falling for this trick, think about how much value a purchase will bring to you, and don't buy just because you think it's worth more than its price suggests.

So, how can you actually save money?

Now that you've seen some dirty retail tricks, you're prepared not to spend more than you want or need to on your next shopping trip. What are some other ways to save money buying your everyday essentials, as well as making special purchases?

If inflation is hitting your wallet, join the club. Watch out for these sneaky moves retailers use to get even more of your hard-earned dough.

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