Simple ways to beat retailers at their own games

Retailers work hard to get our money. They offer special promotions and put other tactics into play, even hiring human behavior specialists to figure out our shopping habits and how to get us to spend more. By having a few tricks of your own, you can be a smart consumer who foils those plans and saves big.

GRAB THE LOSS LEADERS, AND THEN LEAVE. A loss leader is something retailers sell so cheaply that they’re willing to lose money just to get you through the door. Once there, studies show that half of all of your supermarket purchases will be unplanned. That means this store is doing all it can to help you go nuts with unplanned spending and grab anything that looks good.

Know this going in. Concentrate on getting only the loss leaders and grocery-list items you need, and then make a beeline for the checkout so you can get out of there as quickly as possible.

BUY SEASONAL ITEMS AT CLEARANCE PRICES. Retailers are in the business to make big profits on full-priced items. And they know you can’t resist new items to decorate your home or outfit your family. They want you to feel compelled to buy new stuff each season and each holiday. Doing otherwise messes with their profit projections.

The way to beat them at their own game is to practice retail intelligence. Buying a new outdoor grill in April is not smart. That is the beginning of the summer grilling season. Waiting until July is the way to get the best deal. By then, retailers are thinking back-to-school, Thanksgiving and Christmas. They have to clear their warehouses to make room for the next season’s inventory.

Stop yourself from running to the store right away, and wait until seasonal stuff goes on sale, either at the close of a season or after a holiday.

PAY WITH CASH. Even though retailers don’t have to pay merchant fees when you pay with cash, they hate it. They know that if you pay with a stand-in, like a credit card or debit card, you will spend more and boost their profits.

Yes, I realize that shopping only with cash on a day-by-day basis is not convenient. It goes against our culture and all that we believe to be true about the safety of plastic.

It takes effort to plan ahead, stop by the ATM to get cash, pay attention to how much things cost and keep a running total so you don’t become embarrassed at the checkout by not having sufficient cash. But that’s exactly how it should be. Make it very inconvenient and a hassle to part with your hard-earned money, and you’ll find yourself keeping a lot more of it.

Live on cash, except when paying by mail or online. You’ll win!

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

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