You walk into a store. The speakers are blaring an upbeat pop song. Your eyes catch the word SALE written in big, bold letters and your pulse starts to quicken. You tear through the racks of clothing or shelves of home goods trying to find the best deal. You’ve already got plenty of cashmere sweaters but they’re 50 percent off. And before you know it, you’re walking out of the store two turtlenecks in tow and $100 lighter. Does this happen to you more often than you care to admit? It could be doing some serious damage to your current cash flow and your future.
“Shoppers respond really well to that feeling of discovering something that’s unique, rare or valuable,” says Dante Pirouz, Assistant Professor at the Brain and Mind Institute at Western University. That’s what makes you pat yourself on the back — perhaps telling yourself you’re a “smart shopper” if you find something for a good deal, even if you don’t need it. Sales and bargains produce the same feeling you get when you find something attractive or delicious, says Pirouz. Here are four ways to get yourself to look the other way.
Take the emotion out of it.
Maybe you got laid off at work, or maybe you just got a raise. One can lead you to shop in sadness, the other in celebration. Being cognizant of these impulses can help you put a damper on both. “Whether it be an emotional, situational or physiological trigger, shopping while experiencing extreme feelings of sadness or happiness can cause you to spend more,” says April Lane Benson, PhD and author of To Buy or Not to Buy. Pirouz agrees, “No matter who you are, if you’re stressed or distracted, when you get the brain under that level of duress it makes it hard for us to calculate if it’s even a good deal or not.” The time to go shopping is when you’re on an even keel — not sad, but not ecstatic either.
Is your inbox constantly getting filled with emails like “25% Off Today Only!” or “BOGO”? Like moths to a flame, they may be tempting you to spend on unnecessary things. So unsubscribe to those deal newsletters. And while you’re at it, consider getting rid of your store credit cards. They lure you in with the promise of rewards and friends and family days, but really they just want you to spend more, and often at a high-interest rate.
Make it harder on yourself.
Near the end of a transaction many online retailers will ask if you want to store your credit card online. Say no. “Make it harder for yourself to be impulsive,” says Benson. “Do whatever you can to make the pain of paying greater than one-click ordering.” The more you do to slow down the checkout process, the better.
When in doubt, wait it out.
No purchase is so urgent, no bargain so rare, that you don’t have time to research it thoroughly. Pirouz says that if a purchase is going to put a dent in her wallet she tries to give herself a waiting period. “Before I buy something, I’ll walk away or get a cup of coffee to give myself time to make the calculations if I really need it or if I can find a better deal,” says Pirouz. “Giving [myself] that delay allows me to recalibrate and let my brain think it over.”
With Hattie Burgher