smart spending

If you're looking, don't try it on

Are you a "toucher"? No, this isn't an episode of "Seinfeld," it's a shopping question. When you walk through a store, whether it's a clothing boutique or a grocery store, do you constantly handle the merchandise?  If so, it's likely costing you. That's the science behind Money Rule No. 48: If you're just looking, don't try it on.

I'm Jean Chatzky, and this is Money Rules.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, are studying touch and its impact on your wallet. What they've found is fascinating. When you touch something, you're considering buying -- whether you're feeling the weight of a sweater, squeezing a melon or test-driving a car, you gain a sense of ownership -- known, in academic-speak, as the "endowment effect." The longer you're hands-on, the more likely you are to actually buy it, and the more you're likely to spend.

Trying something on is touching in the extreme. At that point, not buying it becomes much more difficult.  It already feels like yours and leaving it in the store feels like a loss. So, if you're trying to keep your wallet closed -- or if you really are just looking -- do yourself a favor and stay out of the dressing room.

And what if the salesperson touches you?  For most people, a friendly human touch -- a pat on the arm, a handshake -- can boost the amount you're willing to spend, too. Just something to keep in mind the next time you head to the mall.

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