As a recovering shopaholic, it is my duty to inform you how some stores are tricking you into spending more than you plahn. Here's how.

20 Ways Your Favorite Stores Are Tricking You Into Spending More

When I started working to build my online business, I did what any normal person would do. I started reading marketing books and taking courses online about how to sell. You know what I realized? There are a lot of sleazy marketing techniques out there and we are being played like fiddles just to help stores make a profit. Instead of putting these practices into play in my business, I decided to flip the scales and share some of the marketing secrets that I learned with you. This way, when it comes to shopping at Target, Home Goods, Amazon, or your other favorite places to shop you can hopefully stay one step ahead of the game!

*This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission on recommendations at no cost to you.

Ready to outsmart the system?

If you struggle with a impulse shopping and think you might have a shopping addiction because you can’t seem to stop spending money no matter how hard you try, I created my Shopping Rehab guide as a source for all things healthy spending.

Not only do I walk you through all the sneaky marketing tactics that are being used against us, but I’ll also help you better understand your unique shopping triggers, where they come from and what you can do to keep shopping — without the financial stress.

False Pricing

Can we say, Kohl’s!? This is the first place that comes to my mind when I think of this tactic. They slap a digital price tag on something that looks like this:

Used to be: $59.99 Now: $39.50!

Well, holy, friggin crap! You’re saving over $20 with this item! That’s exciting, isn’t it?

Except, you can go online to find this exact same item listed at $36. By slapping on a false higher price tag stores trick you into thinking you’re getting something at a really awesome price when really you’re just paying full price. Like a chump.


Raise your hand if you’ve seen these words before:

  • Closeout Sale!
  • Get it now
  • Limited time offer
  • Before supplies run out!

Stores are trying to make you go into a slight panic mode…like you’re getting the last box of Twinkies before the apocalypse.

You sure don’t want to miss out on something that’s going to be gone soon, right? Better hurry up and buy!

Unfortunately, this sales tactic has worked on family members of mine. Because of these sneaky keywords I may or may not have been gifted a “limited edition” of a Royal Wedding Commemorative plate featuring Meghan Markle and Ed Sheeran. Yeah. You read that right.

Coupons and Rebates

Tell me something, did you want Little Debbies when you walked into the grocery store or did you decide that you needed them after you saw that you could save .20 cents on two boxes?

Coupons can be a helpful little boost for purchases you were already planning on making, but chances are, you’ve been duped into buying more than you needed with the belief that you were saving money. Is Couponing Worth It?

During a recent trip to a hardware store, Tom mentioned how great the rebate savings were and I slyly told him, “Yeah, they just convince people they are saving money, but in reality no one ever sends in the rebate slips so they don’t save money and the store sells more.” It then came to light that Tom had $80 worth of rebate slips at home — un-sent. Case and point.

Freebie offers

Everyone wants free stuff. It’s unbelievable. I myself recently jammed a carry-on bag full of freebies I scored at a work event. I’m ashamed. Honestly, most of those items just got donated…but when the temptation to get in on something free presented itself, I had to get in on it!

This temptation carries over into your favorite stores. You know those sale signs that say, “Buy 2 get 1 Free!” or “Buy 1 Get 1 Free”?

They suck you in, right? Now, I mean Buy 1 Get 1 … that’s a good deal I suppose. You’re not paying any additional money than you were planning on spending and you’re taking something home for free.

But, what about that other option? Buy 2 and get one for free? If you were planning on buying one … and instead bought 2 … did you actually save money? No. No, you didn’t.

Store cards

You know the offer right, “Would you like to sign up for our store credit card and save 10%?” Then you hear someone say, “Sure! I’ll just pay it off when I get home.”

–Is it obvious that I worked in retail for over 3 years?

Chances are, some of those women did pay off that credit card. The other ones, however, those poor unfortunate souls probably lost out on their 10% almost instantly because they decided to make monthly payments instead of paying off the card in full.

Picture this: You had $100 to spend, you pay with a credit card and saved plus you still have that $100 bill in your pocket! So you continue on shopping and spend that $100 on something else.

Your plan was to spend $100. You’ve now spent $190 (with your savings of course). Then 3 weeks later you get that credit card bill in the mail that you totally forgot about. So instead you make 4 monthly payments of $30 to pay it off.

What really should have been $100 turned into $190 which ultimately turned into $220.

Free shipping

I’m prepared to admit this one works on me every single time.

“If you spend $6 you’ll be eligible for free shipping!”

Well, heck, I’m already going to be paying $6 for shipping, I may as well just get something extra instead.

$25 later I’m out an additional $19. Figures.

Perfect placement

Did you know certain brands can pay for perfect placement? The ideal spot is right at eye level on your right side.

Since most people are right-handed (and probably like 5′ 6″ or something — I don’t know I definitely fall below average when it comes to height). Brands will pay just to be able to tempt you a little more by being conveniently located 5′ 6″ off the ground on the right hand side.

Bright colors

Have you ever in your life seen store windows with big red or yellow signs?! You have?! Oh yeah, that’s because they all know how to manipulate you through your sense of sight.

Red, orange and yellow are next to each other on the wheel and are all warm colors. Warm colors often evoke feelings of happiness, optimism and energy.

How Color Impacts Emotions and Behavior

You see those signs and you feel all warm and fuzzy. So you head on in for more cozy feelings!

Shopping snacks

Who loves getting a Starbucks while you stroll through Target? ??

Whose kids throw mini-tantrums when you pass the ICEES on the way out because they’re hungry and officially out of patience?!

Conveniently placing easy to grab snacks is another way stores boost our urge to spend. In fact, did you know that Cinnabon is the master of tempting you with yummy smells?

In addition to putting most locations in malls or airports where the scent can linger (rather than as stand-alone stores), Cinnabons also build their stores with the ovens near the front so the scent of baking cinnamon and sugar can lure in customers every time the oven is opened.

-Mental Floss

What the quote doesn’t mention is that in shopping malls, they don’t place themselves in the food court. Why? Less competition. When you’re strolling by your favorite clothing stores and get a whiff of cinnamon goodness, you bet your britches you’re going to want to stop far more often than if there were other smells competing for your attention.

Free samples

You probably knew by now that free samples are a ploy to get you to buy the product. Not gonna lie, it works.

If there is an item at Costco I have considered buying but wasn’t sure I would like it, a free sample always helps me decide!

Get my $100 Costco Shopping List

Essentials in the back

I used to shop like this. Open doors…run to back of store.

Why? Because that’s where those brightly colored SALES signs are located. Of course sales are in the back so you first have to pass through all of the other items in the store.

Funny thing is, they do this in super markets too. All of your quick grab, must have items are conveniently placed near the back of the store. Things like milk, cheese and eggs.

Wanna get your essentials? Gotta wade through all the other temptations first.

20 Ways Your Favorite Stores Are Tricking You Into Spending More

Quick grab snacks

I wonder if the check out aisles are designed just to add a little extra stress to a mother’s life? You know the spot. With the small toys, lip gloss and candy. All perfectly placed for a child to meltdown in a very public location.

Of course, if you’re feeling the stress at this point too, you’ll probably grab for the candy just as quickly. Then again, maybe you’d rather read about how Brad and Jen are getting back together again. After all, you stood there waiting and read half the article. You may as well take it home.

Mailing lists

Online shopping offers up just as much temptation. “Sign up for our mailing list and save 10%!” To make it even more tempting, some of them even say you only have a few hours to get that 10%!

Savings and limited time! What’s a guy/gal to do? Buy. Obviously.

The thing is, it doesn’t end there. They’ve now got you totally hooked and can email you with all of their other savings and promotions whenever they want.

So the next time you check your mail on your lunch break after you boss just reamed you out, at least you have online retail therapy to turn to.

Text notifications

Same as email only at your fingertips 24/7. Try to resist temptation when you have that little PING go off and you see that you can save money for a limited time at your favorite stores! Score!

How lucky that your favorite store cares so much to share these deals with you. ?

Buy more save more deals

Wanna know something that stumps most people? Those “Buy 10 for $10” deals often don’t require you to buy 10.

You could buy 1 for $1 — and save $9.

Make sure you read the fine print of course because sometimes these offers are a package deal. But, in most cases you are not required to purchase all the items in order to save.

Store apps

Store apps are a convenient way to help you shop more often at your favorite stores. They put coupons, sales and specials right at your finger tips for your scrolling pleasure.


Ok, so you probably knew that ads are designed to convince you to buy something right. But were you aware of just how far down it goes?

Most advertisements are designed to make you feel like you are getting more than the product they are trying to sell you.

Buy tampons and all of a sudden you’ll be a white-wearing, care-free girl who can perfectly dive into the pool and get noticed by all the boys.

*Side note: I admit, I desperately wanted to be a “Pearl Girl” in high school.

If you start buying Pillsbury’s instant rolls you’ll all of a sudden have that amazing family time that you all crave.

Soup in a can = best mom on the whole planet. All the neighbor kids even want in on your awesome-ness. Jack’s mom from soccer practice ain’t got nothing on you.


If advertisements weren’t enough, they are secretly hiding all over social media now too! Your favorite Instagrammer just might be tempting you into a cute new dress, instant chicken nuggets or the latest bath bombs and you don’t even know it.

Yes, influencers have to disclose when they are advertising to you but…it’s still working. Thankfully, the majority of influencers I know will only talk to you and promote products they actually love and believe in. Just make sure you’re following honest people.

Abandoned cart!

I think my favorite past-time is filling up shopping carts online and then X-ing out. It was probably the best therapy for me when I first started trying to get my shopping addiction under control.

The thing is, a lot of online places will not let you forget about that cart! They’ll send you email reminders, texts or big, bold alerts the next time you sign in! Then they’ll conveniently tell you there’s only 2 left of the item you want! Ahh!

They straight up stalk you

We make jokes these day that we can talk about an item out loud to a friend and then that item shows up as a Facebook ad later that day.

Joking makes it easier, but the truth is, this is a very real thing.

However, it goes way beyond just paying attention to what you view online. One of the most shocking things I ever heard was that Target actually monitored purchases so well that they were able to tell if a woman was pregnant before she had even told anyone else!

Not because she bought a test. — Oh no. It would be the foods she would buy, vitamins that she would take and probably a change in clothing purchases as well.

Target’s major invasion of privacy came to light when they sent a teenage girl an advertisement for expecting moms. Her dad angrily complained to the local Target staff because he didn’t think things like that should be advertised to girls her age. Only to find out that Target had nailed it and she really was expecting. Read: Will Target Circle Actually Save You Money?

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As a recovering shopaholic, it is my duty to inform you how some stores are tricking you into spending more than you plahn. Here's how.
As a recovering shopaholic, it is my duty to inform you how some stores are tricking you into spending more than you plahn. Here's how.

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