By Kit Yarrow
Kit Yarrow is a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco and author of “Gen Y: How Tweens, Teens and Twenty-Somethings Are Revolutionizing Retail.”
Love it or hate it, Black Friday and the five long weeks in the run-up to the Holidays is the time of the year when just about everyone will find themselves competing for bargains and searching for the perfect gift. Call it the big game season of shopping. Just as athletes prepare mentally and physically for the big game, so should consumers.
Shoppers often go over-budget and later wonder what they were thinking with that $10 Christmas tree decoration or stocking filler when they arrive home. Shopping under pressure is rife with physical and mental landmines. Here are some tips from Pay Dirt to achieve peak performance before going shopping on one of the biggest days of the year.
Eat, drink – only then shop
Thirst contributes to confusion and fatigue – not the best mental states to be in for people who are spending money. Stay sharp by drinking water. Impulse purchases are the number one budget breaker. When consumers are hungry, they’re more vulnerable to impulsive behaviors of all sorts. Eat protein, in particular, to help stay in control. (Believe it or not, here’s how the Thanksgiving Turkey may help.)
Stay cool emotionally, too
Crowds, competition, time pressure and noise fire up our autonomic nervous system. When that happens, the body drains resources from the brain. Rational thinking suffers as a result. For shoppers, it can mean we’re not great at pinpointing the source of our bodies excited reaction. That means we can misinterpret a heart-thumping reaction to a pushy crowd to mean a desire for a product. The antidote is time : It takes about 20 minutes to cool down. (Low self-esteem and unhappiness increases materialism, studies show.)
Not all “sales” are worth it
We instinctively use nearby comparisons to determine the value of products. For example, if we see three things in a row that are $10, when we see something similar that’s $5, we’ll think it’s a good value. That’s not always the case. Retailers sometimes strategically position higher priced items nearby because they know this principle works. The same is true for sales. We assume a sale product is “worth” its regular price and so the sale price must be a value. (Read here about how furniture stores do this, too.)
Beware of stocking fillers
Research shows that after we cross the mental threshold of our first purchase, the rest will come easier. And it’s often the add-on purchases, such as stocking-stuffers or a matching accessory, that add up to budget disasters. Try to mentally calculate each purchase as if it’s the first. That holds true for future accessories, too. Toymakers are experts at creating a revenue stream for their gadgets, so be careful about the kinds of value-added temptations you are putting in the way of your children when choosing them.