The Sneaky Way Companies Are Getting You to Spend More

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  • Inflation is driving living costs up for many Americans.
  • Some companies aren't raising prices, but are still making life more expensive for consumers by shrinking packages.

Have you caught on to this trend?

At this point, many of us are used to paying more for gas, groceries, and just about every essential expense imaginable. We can thank rampant inflation for that.

Some companies, however, aren't raising their prices. But that doesn't mean they're not charging consumers more money -- they're just going about it in a sneakier way.

Are you spending more without realizing it?

If the cereal box you buy every week rises in cost from $3.49 to $3.79, that's an increase you're apt to notice -- especially if you pay close attention to your grocery bills. But your go-to cereal company may not be raising its prices. Instead, what it may be doing is charging you the same $3.49, but giving you an ounce or two less of cereal for that price.

It's a concept known as shrinkflation, and it basically allows companies to raise their prices without actually doing so. Since consumers are charged the same amount they're used to paying, many don't notice their go-to products are shrinking in size -- especially if that shrinking is gradual.

At the end of the day, charging consumers the same amount of money for less product is really no different than charging them more money for the same amount of product. The only difference is that the former practice is more likely to leave consumers in the dark.

Not a new concept

To be clear, shrinkflation isn't a new concept. Companies have been downsizing their products for years.

But that practice is apt to hurt consumers more right now with so many people struggling to make ends meet. This especially applies to consumers who commonly live paycheck to paycheck, and who have no money in savings to fall back on during periods when expenses grow more burdensome.

How to fight shrinkflation

Shrinkflation isn't an easy thing to pick up on. But you can protect yourself financially by being a savvier shopper and more informed consumer.

The next time you visit the grocery store, pay attention to not just price tags, but metrics like cost per unit or cost per ounce. You may be surprised to see your go-to brands aren't as affordable as you thought they were due to them giving you less product for your money.

Another good option to consider? Ditch brand names and give store brands a try. You may find your favorite cereal tastes just as good coming out of a box that costs you $0.10 less per ounce.

It could also pay to load up on some of your favorite products in bulk to eke out savings. But be careful when buying bulk perishables. If you don't have a ton of fridge or freezer space, you may want to stick to buying only shelf-stable items -- like your favorite cereal -- in mass quantities.

Ultimately, the more attention you pay at the store, the less likely you'll be to fall victim to shrinkflation. At a time when your bills might be soaring and your credit card balances might be growing, that's an important thing.

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