Social psychologist Robert Cialdini says retail sales are about mind games. “Retailers use phrases like ‘Buy one, get one free’ or ‘Buy three and only pay for two’ to make you believe that you’ll be missing out on a bargain if you don’t spend at a sale.”
Michiel Hejimans, a marketing consultant at Yoast – a search-engine optimisation firm in the Netherlands – agrees, saying words carry a lot of influence. “For instance, the sentence ‘Get x off’ emphasises achieving a gain, while ‘Save x off’ emphasises avoiding loss. Research has found that such wording motivates you to buy more, even if other products that you buy are not actually on sale.”
With that said, many of us are still going to take advantage of the low prices.
Nedbank behavioural economist Amy Underwood offers four practical ways to control the urge to splurge:
1. Stay home
The high costs of buying things on sale is addictive, so if you know you have an impulse to spend, stay at home and avoid shopping places.
2. Go to a small shopping mall:
Some people overestimate their level of self-control. Once they see the ‘sale’ sign, they react to it. If this happens to you, go to smaller shopping centres or a specific store to get only what you need.
3. Shop in the morning
The part of the brain that deals with self-control is the prefrontal cortex. It helps us to do the right thing when it’s hard. If you have to shop, do so first thing in the morning when your level of self-control is still high, and not yet depleted.
4. Eat before you shop
A part of the brain needs sugar to operate, so have fruit or a healthy meal before you go shopping. This will keep your mind sharp enough to avoid getting caught by sale signs.