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You try something on in the fitting room and decide you look pretty good. Later you model the same item in front of your own mirror only to wonder why you look so pale, and how you could have possibly developed a little cellulite on the way home. You're not a crazy consumer, you've just fallen prey to a few retailer tricks.

Warmer lights in the fitting room is just one of many, according to Martin Lindstrom, author of Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy. Aside from soft lighting, and in some cases filters added to mirrors to make us look more suntanned, stores also rely on nostalgic music to get us to spend.

Then there's "vanity sizing," clothes that are bigger than the actual tagged size, so we think we're fitting into something smaller. "It's scary how common these techniques are in most retailers across North America," says Mr. Lindstrom.

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We should be wiser by now, but study after study reveals we're not. Our emotions get in the way and we overspend.

To combat emotional buys, Mr. Lindstrom says we shouldn't shop unless we have a plan. If you want to make an impulse purchase, give yourself a holding period of 48 hours first. Chances are the rush has passed and it turns out you didn't need that pair of skinnies after all.

Other advice: Use cash, say no to store credit cards – we spend 30 per cent more when we have them – and opt to buy from a store that allows returns in case you suffer buyer's remorse. And don't we all, at one time or another.

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at the Globe's personal finance site.

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