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We’ve all walked into the grocery store with the goal of picking up a few essential items only to walk out with an armful of grocery bags and a receipt a mile long. How does that happen? Sure, sometimes we wander the isles when we’re hungry and end up buying unnecessary snacks. However, there’s more than a little manipulation going on from most grocery stores that are trying to get you to spend more all while ultimately saving them money. Here are 5 ways grocery stores are tricking you into spending money – and how you can avoid falling into their trap!


While you might not notice the background music in the grocery store – or in other stores, for that matter, the soundtrack to your shopping is actually picked with a purpose. According to this 2014 field experiment, stores that played up-tempo, lively music actually saw a significant increase in sales, especially if the store was busy. Now, there’s not much you can do to change the music in a store, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind how the music and atmosphere might be impacting your shopping.

Checkout Line Products

Once you’ve filled up your cart and are standing in the checkout lane, you might think you’re in the safe zone. Not so fast! Those items lining the shelves of the checkout aisle are put there for a reason – snacks, toys, headphones, flashlights, and other items pave the way towards the cashier, and while you wait in line you start to think about how good a little candy bar would be, or that maybe you should pick up another stick of lip balm. One way to avoid this hang up is to keep yourself distracted by reading a magazine or scrolling on your phone.

How The Shelves Are Stocked

Everything about a grocery store is done with a purpose – including how the shelves are stocked. Typically, the more expensive options are right at eye level. That way, when you finally see that box of pasta, you don’t think twice about grabbing the more expensive name brand. The solution to this one is obvious – do a little price checking! You don’t have to go crazy clipping coupons, but you might be surprised to find that looking a shelf or two lower will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Store Layout

Not only are the shelves stocked with a purpose, but the entire store layout is set up to get as many products in front of your eyes as possible! That’s why the most commonly purchased items – dairy and meat products – are usually found in the back of the store. It’s no wonder we sometimes go in for a gallon of milk and end up with a bag of chips, a few boxes of cereal, and a tub of ice cream! The key here is focus. Once you’re more aware of what you are actually there for – and more importantly, what you’re not there for, you’ll be able to walk in and out with only what you need!

Subliminal Color Codes

The final way stores trick you into spending money is to use color codes. Namely, the color red. It’s deeply ingrained in our minds that red means SALE! Especially if there are red signs placed on the end caps of aisles, or if the price tag is in red. Oftentimes, we won’t even check the price, we just know it’s probably a good deal, so why not?

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