How Stores Relax your Brain and your Wallet


September 6, 2006   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Several years ago I worked at a Riverboat casino. Among other things, we learned that casinos have a ton of tricks aimed at keeping you focused on gaming. For example, you will never see a clock in a casino because they don’t want to remind you how late it is. You will also notice that all most slot machine lights are at or above eye level so there is no way you can possibly miss one of them.

I guess I just suspected it from a casino. It never occurred to me that department stores are doing the same things. Sure, I’ve heard of tricky product placement and impulse purchase displays but I never realized all that went into it. Things like aroma, sounds and the store’s entrance are discussed at Get Rich Slowly as they analyze some of these retail tricks. They also provide a couple of tips to curb spending.

  1. Set a budget for shopping trips. Give yourself a little mad money. And don’t spend a penny more.
  2. Use a list whenever you shop, even at malls. Don’t deviate from it any more than your mad money will allow.
  3. Avoid mass merchandisers — even discount ones — if you only need a few items and can’t trust yourself to stick to your list.
  4. Bring cash whenever possible and leave credit and debit cards at home.
  5. Remember that even small impulse buys can add up to big expenses.

I suppose the lesson of remaining or becoming frugal is to make a conscious decision each time you reach for your wallet as opposed to it being a reaction or impulse.


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