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3 Ways To Shop Smarter Using Science

Yes, they’re a little wacky, but who are you to argue with science?

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girlfriend, aarp, shopping
Marina Muun
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That cash register cha-ching? It’s actually the sound of your AmEx crying “uncle!” If willpower alone isn’t enough to get you past the doorbuster deals and crammed clearance racks with your credit card balance intact, then try one of these handy little tricks. Yes, they’re a little wacky, but who are you to argue with science?

Wear heels
Yes, three-inch stilettos might be a little dressy for a Target run. But studies have shown that shoppers who clomp around in high heels tend to spend less money — and it’s not because you’re less likely to linger in the aisles when your toes are cramping. Researchers at Brigham Young University found that shopping with a “heightened sense of balance” made people more likely to consider their options and make midpriced purchases, rather than splurging on a big-ticket item. Hate heels? The same effect can be achieved by balancing on one foot while deciding between two products. (While online shopping, try leaning back in your chair — carefully.)

Hold the bathroom break
Call it the Potty Paradox: People who need to use the restroom actually make better decisions than those who don’t, according to researchers in the Netherlands. Yes, it sounds counterintuitive, but it all boils down to the idea of control. The control we exert over our urge to go ultimately trickles down (sorry) to other impulses, such as the desire to spend money. In fact, the more you need to go, the more self-control you’ll have. The next time you decide to spend a leisurely afternoon window shopping, hit the coffee shop first.

Shop at rush hour
Just as bumper-to-bumper traffic jams can make you want to pull your hair out, so too do crowded shopping centers — which is exactly why you should go at peak hours. Studies have shown that consumers are less likely to explore a store (and thereby less likely to spend extra money) if the merchandise floor is packed like a sardine can. The busiest shopping hours? Weekend afternoons, weekday lunch hours, and weekday evenings between 8 and 10 p.m.