Here’s how retailers get inside your head and entice you to spend more than you planned:

  • Bundled offers like “Buy One, Get One Free.” Columbia University marketing professor Mark Cohen says that’s actually designed to get us to think of impulse purchases as good buys. And be especially wary of sales that offer, say, 20% off or 30% off if you buy two. Because experts say that big-number discounts are especially effective at getting us to overspend.
  • Putting the most expensive items on the right side of the store. Paco Underhill is the author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. And he says that most right-handed people tend to turn right when they enter a building. And since there are more righties than lefties, retailers put high-end merchandise on that side, so the majority of people will notice it right away.
  • There’s a reason the clearance items are in the back. Ellie Kay wrote The 60-Minute Money Workout. And she says points out that to get to the sale rack, you have to walk past all the tempting new items. And have you ever wondered why the clearance racks are always messy and disorganized? Retailers know we like to find the size and price of an item easily. And messy discount racks make a lot of shoppers turn right around to browse the tidier, full-priced items.