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Have you ever noticed that almost every grocery store is set up to be almost the same? Immediately upon entering, you turn to your right and you probably see a floral department.  Following that is the fresh produce and probably the bakery.  The middle aisles of the store are full of packaged foods, the dairy and meat is near the back, the frozen section is saved for last, and the checkout area is stocked with last-minute items and packaged snacks to tempt your tastebuds and test your self-control. Some stores have slightly different layouts, but chances are this roughly describes your local store.

None of this is by accident.

Grocery stores are set up in this particular way, not only because it makes logistical sense (picking up frozen items first wouldn’t make sense, would it?), but because this is how they get you to part with your precious dollars.

So fresh, so clean
One of the most important lessons for a twenty-something who is entering the job market is that first impressions are extremely important and you have one chance to make a good one.  Grocery store layouts take advantage of  this idea.  With beautiful flowers close to the entrance and piles of shiny red apples right in front of the door, they are working to make sure you associate their store with freshness and variety. Everything is lit beautifully to ensure that it looks its best.

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Got milk?
Aside from vegans and the lactose intolerant, dairy is one of the most popular sections of the store. Milk is a staple for most houses, as are yogurt, cheese, and eggs. Since the majority of people have milk on their shopping list, it only makes sense to situate it in the back of the store to ensure that most customers have to walk the entire length of the store. If milk was in the front, you may have missed the cereal section and you would have avoided that last-minute Apple Jacks purchase.

Elevator eyes
Next time you’re at the store, drop your eyes down to the bottom shelf and compare those items to what’s at eye level.  Chances are, the eye level items are the higher quality, more expensive, or name brand products. The less expensive ones are – by design – out of range of where our eyes naturally fall when we’re looking at a wall of cereal or varieties of peanut butter.

Keep your hands to yourself
In the checkout area, keep your focus on checking out instead of scanning the items around you.  Yes, of course you want a Snickers bar and the latest copy of Health magazine (no matter how contradictory they are), but keep your hands off them!  These small purchases can add up and have an impact on that budget we know you’re trying to stick to.

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Wallet-saving tips
So how can you avoid getting caught up in the store’s tricks?  First, you can avoid impulse buys by making a list when you go to the store. Visualize the path you take while you’re shopping and write the list accordingly so you aren’t running back and forth through the store (you’ll be tempted by extra items each time you pass them).  Another option is to only bring a certain amount of cash each time you shop so you absolutely cannot go over budget. Parting with physical money instead of just swiping your card will force you to think about not only what items you’re buying, but the price of those items. Lastly, try shopping during off-peak hours so you feel less rushed and can take the time to search out the best deals rather than grabbing the eye-level yogurt just to get through the crowd.

Who knew grocery stores could be so devious? At the end of the day, being prepared and understanding the temptations that surround you are key to coming away with just what you need and nothing else.