Shopping is a big part of modern life for just about anyone. It can be rewarding and satisfying or maddening and daunting – depending on who you ask. If you shop often, you’re no stranger to things like impulse buying or deliberating over multiple options. You are constantly exposed to a plethora of audio/visual stimuli designed to make an impression and loosen your purse strings. While some fly under the radar, some can be more persuasive, and you end up buying things you never thought you wanted or needed. Here are some tips for you to outsmart the market and make smarter purchasing decisions.

1. Know Your Surroundings

Be it physical or online, shops are noisy – and no, it’s not just the music. Noise can also refer to the tricks shops employ to make you reach into your wallet or purse. In physical stores, anything from background music to the layout of the shop can affect your buying behaviors. Shops are also known to play slow, calming music, so you don’t feel rushed and spend more time shopping. Ikea famously has a circular layout, deliberately designed so that visitors are led through almost every part of the store before exiting, fearing they might miss what they need if they don’t. Product owners can even pay stores a premium for their choice of placement in displays to get more visibility. Lights can also help highlight products to be desirable. Clothing stores are notorious for having surprisingly well-lit changing rooms with floor-length mirrors to convince you the clothes you are trying on look great.

2. Buying Online? Keep Your Focus on What You Need

Shopping online is equally (if not more) full of traps to get you to buy more. If you’re looking for a new blender and don’t know where to look, you may have to go through various pages. Before you know it, your cart is filled with things you didn’t need that looked too enticing to pass upon. Instead, use the search feature. What if there are multiple options? It is important to know what you need from your purchase so you can evaluate various options properly. Shortlist products by reviews, similar to those written by independent reviewers at Product Review Hero, so you have an unbiased third-party view of the product. It is not unlikely for product reviews on the online shop to be biased or even (in some extreme cases) paid for by the seller. Checking independent reviews ensures you buy what you really need and don’t get lost in the fluff.

3. Reconsider the Value of Free Offers

Have you heard that there is no such thing as a free lunch? That’s because it’s true. Most of the time, freebies require you to pay for them in some way or the other, even when they’re advertised to be free. The cost can be incurred in the form of time, space, personal information, or effort. Some may even have hidden monetary costs. If something costs a few dollars less in another store, are you wasting time, energy, and money driving there? If so, is it really cheaper? How often have you bought something online that just asked you to pay for shipping and then realize you didn’t need it at all?

4. Don’t Fall For The Appearance of Affordability

Many high-ticket items can come in installment plans that encourage you to buy now and pay later. Since the high cost is spread out in small payments over time, it feels affordable. Installment plans are not a bad idea; they’re often a good deal for an otherwise inaccessible asset. However, they can also easily lure you into buying something you don’t need or can’t quite afford in the long term. These plans don’t reduce the price, so the total cost remains the same in the long run. Hence the key is to keep your purchases to what you can afford. Unless you are certain you will be able to pay the installments on schedule, steer clear of getting locked into these plans. The plan could be “interest-free” but could have late fees or hidden charges that could make the purchase more expensive if you don’t pay in time, especially if you have the tendency to splurge. Your finances might end up stretched too thin over multiple installments for various purchases and may have overstretched your finances by chalking up installments for multiple purchases.

Shopping these days is easier than it was ever before. It also means you need to be mindful of your expenses now more than ever. The bottom line is to take time and ask yourself some questions. Do you need or want the item? Is it really free? Are you willing and able to pay for it at one go instead of opting for installments? Just these questions alone can lead you to make smarter purchase decisions for which your wallet or purse will surely thank you.

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