As an emotional spender at large myself, I’ve rounded up four emotional spending traps to avoid, to help you stay financially safe this Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
1. Scarcity bias spending
The hype of Black Friday is no accident – and us emotional spenders just can’t stand missing out. It activates our natural scarcity bias, and makes us want to pounce before it’s too late.
This can often mean our good intentions are squashed by just taking a little peek online to see what’s cracking on your favourite sites.
Also by Emma Edwards:
How to sidestep the trap: If you think you’ll be tempted, use a Chrome extension called SiteBlocker to limit your access to your go-to sites during the sale period.
If you trust yourself to browse without your credit card deets tumbling into the checkout page, try preparing a list of approved items with a set price that you’re allowed to buy at if they’re discounted to that level. If it’s not on the list, it’s not going in your cart.
2. Momentum spending
Big sale periods stimulate a behavioural phenomenon called momentum spending. We’re far more likely to buy a second item once we’ve already bought something, because that first purchase sets off a desire to keep the momentum going.
I know this all too well, and it comes up even more so when I try to stop myself from spending at all. One sabotage purchase and I’m an out of control card-tapping monster.
How to sidestep the trap: Momentum spending starts with that first purchase, so we have two options.
Either don’t start the process at all (e.g. don’t shop the sales), or take extra steps to redirect your attention and your energy after a purchase. Shut the laptop. Leave the mall. Go and get busy with something else to redirect your focus away from spending.
3. Discount dopamine spending
Spending money gives us a surge of dopamine – the feel good brain chemical. But you know what else floods us with the stuff? Discounts.
Getting a big discount on a great product, whether we want that product or not, makes us giddy. If we see a $500 dress down to $79, we’re more excited about the $421 savings than the actual item itself.
How to sidestep the trap: Shopping the sales only from a wishlist can help with this temptation. You could also set a rule to avoid looking at the percentage discount and focusing solely on what you’ll be handing over.
Remember, 75 per cent off might be a great deal, but it’s 100 per cent off if you don’t buy it at all.
4. Regret avoidance spending
We wacky humans actually make a lot of our decisions based on the avoidance of regret. We really don’t like regretting stuff, and this comes up a lot during tempting sales. I’m a repeat offender of using the phrase “I’ll just get it and decide later”.
We do this in an attempt to take control of that fear or regret, but the collateral damage is our bank accounts. We promise ourselves we’ll return it if we decide we can’t afford it, but all too often wind up keeping it anyway.
How to sidestep the trap: Get familiar with your fear of regret. Noticing it can help you break the cycle of giving into it.
Then, up the stakes on your money. We can train our brains to focus on the regret of spending the money over the regret of missing the deal by assigning a greater emotional value to the money in our bank account.
It can help to visualise what your money is for, or put it in buckets with assigned categories. It’s much harder to part with your travel fund than it is to pull money out of an anonymous saver.