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Use your mind, not your heart in spending

Ever hear the term impulse buying? I like to re-think this term and call it heart-spending, or relying on my gut. These are the seemingly tiny purchases that add up and shock us back to reality on our credit card bill. The things that seemed so important, that we now can’t remember why we thought we needed them in the first place.

And they are the types of purchases that the current market is banking on. Marketers have teams of experts designed to deliberately provoke emotional reactions to products. Why? Because they know if they can tug on your heart, they can tug on your purse strings at the same time. This is what commercials are about, painting a warm and rosy picture of a product without ever really discussing what matters about it or its flaws.

The good news is that being aware of impulse buying, and the marketing behind it, is the first step to helping build up an immunity to it.

Beware of some of the following sneaky shopping tactics that can have you reaching for your wallet, without thinking first.

Tactic 1 “Get them while they last!”

This tactic is referred to as the ‘false scarcity’ tactic in business, and it’s meant to make you believe you need to buy an item now or it may not be here tomorrow. This has become increasingly popular with big box retailers who state, “no rain cheques” and “get them while they last!”, and have even spread to online shopping avenues that emphasise how many products are left. The truth is they’re mostly set up to motivate you to grab the item today, before you think about it, lest somebody else get it first.

It’s a mistake. How often do big box stores really change their stock? Even if they decide to no longer carry an item, what are the chances you can’t find it anywhere else? You don’t have to buy it today, you can wait and think it through – so do!

Tactic 2 Manipulating the numbers to create a “deal”

Does your eye instantly go to the “30% off today” rack at the store? What about finding a sticker for a 25% discount, if you buy three or more products? Some of these deals are good, and may be the better call, but a lot of the time they’re just a simple marketing ploy to make the customer feel like he/she is getting a deal – but only if they act now. This again encourages impulse spending on unprecedented levels, on items whose sale price may not be all that far off the regular.

So, take a minute and consider why the item is on sale, if the sale price is a good price, and if you would be buying the item otherwise. By allowing your mind to enter the picture, you reduce the tug on your heart strings and allow yourself to process purchases rather than get pressured into them.

Tactic 3 Giveaways

A lot of marketing schemes today are set up to get you in the door with customer giveaways. Whether it’s a free t-shirt or a cool drink as you walk in the door, people think about how nice the business is and often stay longer than they ever intended, just for the cost of a t-shirt. This is intentional! Marketers know that if they can get you in the door, and feeling warm and fuzzy about a brand, you’ll be more inclined to feel obligated to buy there – after all, you did take their drinks! This is a mistake. Take some time and think about whether this is really the best place to purchase this product, and why, before letting those giveaways run away with your wallet.

Tactic 4 Being rude

This may surprise you, but recent marketing research has shown that a slightly rude sales clerk may push people to purchase a high-end item. Why? They feel like the sales clerk is communicating an exclusive message, and they want to prove that they can belong – just to “show them”!

The hard reality here is that all you’re showing a company in this instance is your gullibility in a popular sales tactic. This is often seen with luxury items rather than groceries, but you can recognise it if you see a slightly aloof salesperson who seems to be turning their nose at you. They could just be rude naturally, or they could be trained to make customers feel a little ill at ease – to encourage those impulse buys.

The bottom line

Some of these tactics are employed on genuinely good products that, even if you thought about it, you would buy. But others are being set up to hide product flaws. All of them are designed to emotionally manipulate you, and the best way to stop this process is to slow down and think the purchase through. Even if you decide to buy in the end, you’ll feel better about why you did!