How to avoid overspending during sale season

Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

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.


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24