Shopping is often rewarding or maddening. We buy stuff we want. We buy things we want. And we buy things we neither will need nor want, not generally figuring out why. The search for a solution to that problem?why??led me on a three-year fact-finding odyssey by which I delved into your cultural, social, and psychological facets of how Americans store. What I found would be that the why doesn’t always sound right. Sure, you’ll find intelligent entrepreneurs who give us with endless explanations to buy, but at the conclusion of the day, no person puts a gun to our wallets. So our best defense versus imprudent buys will be to be familiar with what’s influencing us. Here, 10 tips to aid you be a lot more conscious with all your money.

one. Don’t permit the shop seduce you. Shops function over the principle the fastest solution to our charge cards is through our senses. The speakers at Abercrombie & Fitch pump out loud, bass-heavy beats to get teenage hormones rocking; hotels and spas are redolent with aromas of minty freshness; jewelry stores aim high-wattage halogen lights at watches and rings to bring out even far more sparkle. These so-called atmospherics entice us so we linger longer and spend much more, but they won’t improve the value on the merchandise.

2. You should not enable the store scramble your “reference price,” either. This marketing term refers to the price that you expect to pay for something (because you have bought that item several times before), and shops are quite adept at messing with it. Take, for example, a can of tuna. The price in your head is probably around $2.25. But by shrinking the size with the can from six ounces to five, the sellers are making additional money, even though the price looks unchanged to you. Sure, when the kids are wailing and you’re in a hurry, you aren’t going to study every price-weight fluctuation. But being mindful of this sleight of hand could save you money from time to time.

3. Shopper, know thyself. Some psychologists say that most of us fall into one of two categories: Low self-monitors aren’t too concerned with social feedback and make buys based on their preference for a product, while high self-monitors buy to fit in. In general, you’ll make smarter purchases if you stick to your shopping temperament. Ignore these thoughts and quite a few buys will never make it out of your closet.

4. Beware of your freebie. Think quick: You’re offered a choice between a free $10 gift certificate and a $20 gift certificate for $7. Which would you take? When behavioral economist Dan Ariely tested shoppers at a Boston mall, they overwhelmingly opted for the free gift certificate, even though that meant losing out on a $13 profit. It’s easy to fall for free! but a price tag of zero may be costlier than it appears.

5. Choose shopping partners wisely. Hitting the stores with a gaggle of pals may be a pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but don’t lose sight of how others can influence your buying decisions. This phenomenon is often referred to as “group-level consideration,” meaning that the group, not you, establishes the spending norms and defines what is acceptable and condonable. So if the consensus holds that it’s reasonable to pay $600 for a pair of pumps, you may just find yourself out over the town in heels that scream (to you, at least), “What was I thinking?”

6. Think twice about express checkout lanes. Sometimes spending wisely means keeping an eye on your money and your time?especially if you pay for parking or have to get somewhere, like work, where your time is worth additional. You might think it’s additional expedient to get in the 10-items-or-less lane. But Dan Meyer, a math researcher and a blogger, has identified that when faced with a medium to long regular checkout line and a slightly longer express line, you should generally opt for the regular one. Why? It takes much more time to do more individual transactions.

7. Let your mouse do the walking. Preshopping online is natural for many of us. To the rest: Get clicking! Even if you prefer to buy at brick-and-mortar stores, you can earn savings with sites that seek the most effective deals (shopping.com, pricegrabber.com), offer customer reviews (epinions.com, tripadvisor.com), or publish wholesale and market prices to help you haggle (like edmunds.com does for cars).

8. Buying online? Use the search box. You’re looking for a new mixer. Type its name in the site’s search function rather than using the category links (“Shop All Departments,” then “Kitchen,” “Small Appliances,” and, finally, “Mixers”). A study by a Massachusetts-based website research firm observed that shoppers who use the link method are a few times more likely to keep browsing after they’ve discovered their item and make 3 times as many impulse purchases as compared with those who use the search tool.

9. Indulge your needs. Narrowly defined, the only things we really require are food, clothing, and shelter (love, too, although buying love isn’t a good idea). But you’ll find other needs that relate to our emotional well-being. Treating yourself to a massage or a new top may lift the spirits and doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being reckless. My view? Self-reward isn’t a crime; just stick within your budget.

ten. Stock up on experiences. Recently my wife and I returned from a biking trip abroad. We had bought some stuff, mainly clothes, that you don’t find in this article. It’s nice to tell ourselves those items will remind us from the trip, but they’re bound to go the way of all things cotton or wool. What will live on are the moments, captured in memory or snapshots or both. And that’s what I call money well spent.