My finances, my projects, my life
March 20, 2023

Sales and promotions: my five-step attack plan!

To avoid succumbing to the siren songs of marketing, it’s important to always prepare a plan of attack before you hit the sales. You have the power to shrug off attempts to influence you and take control of your purchases so you can spot genuine bargains. The myLIFE team is here to help you!

In an article entitled “Sales and promotions: how to avoid falling for a fake deal”, we highlight how sales influence shoppers not only economically, but also emotionally. Behavioural economics has shown that we’re far from rational economic decision-makers. Human sensitivity has a major impact on our behaviour, and we tend to have strong reactions to price signals, especially when they’re labelled “promotions”. As such, a number of studies have shown that the monetary value of a purchase only accounts for a small portion of the satisfaction you might derive from your purchases.

In addition to the simple monetary value associated with a discount, other factors also influence shoppers during the sales. Special offers in particular tend to enhance the emotional reward you get from your purchase; this is the “pleasure” aspect of the purchase. The buyer feels like they’ve found a bargain, giving them an ego boost and making them feel like a clever and efficient shopper. This feeling generates a certain kind of pleasure, and encourages them to buy. The purchasing experience and the hunt for the desired item itself can also play a significant role in the final decision.

Generally, promotions have the capacity to generate feel-good emotions in consumers. This is particularly true for those who feel that the notion of “shopping for pleasure” is important. It gives them a feeling of self-worth and makes them feel good, to the extent that these feel-good emotions become more important than the actual discount. It’s therefore important that you prepare a five-step plan of attack to maximise your chance of spotting a real bargain during the sales, while maintaining control.

(…) cashless payment methods tend to encourage impulse purchases.

Step 1: define your budget

Rather than letting shopping fever wear out your credit card, it’s important to define a maximum budget for gifts or sales. Next, it’s important to keep track of your accounts. You can use a mobile budget tracking app to set yourself maximum limits, and use the alert features to receive notifications in case of impulse purchases.

If you’re off to do your Christmas shopping, why not take your set budget out in cash and leave your card at home? Cashless payment methods tend to encourage impulse purchases.

Step 2: prepare your wishlist

Prepare a precise list of things you need, and gifts you’re thinking of giving. The idea is not to stop you from taking advantage of an opportunity or to rule out ideas that might come to you during your shop. However, it’s important that you stick to a general guide, so as to avoid going overboard by spending your entire budget on unplanned purchases, or exceeding your budget. This last situation might leave you in debt if it occurs on a regular basis.

If there’s too much choice, or you still haven’t found what you’re looking for after several hours of searching, try not to win back the time you’ve invested by buying something that’s not quite right. This is the drawback of sales and websites that present page after page of all kinds of promotions. Your brain can only process a limited number of options. Faced with too many options, it gets overloaded and can’t make a decision. When you’re unable to decide, trust your instincts and don’t buy anything in the heat of the moment. Instead, seek out a change of scenery, whether real-world or online, and take a step back for a little while to see if you see things more clearly. Remind yourself that as long as you’re not spending money, you’ve lost nothing.

A sale or promotion sign doesn’t necessarily mean the price of the sought-after item has changed.

Step 3: compare!

Don’t hesitate to compare the sale item you’re interested in by visiting several sites or stores. Be wary of price anchoring, especially when the price ends with a 9, such as €59.99. A sale or promotion sign doesn’t necessarily mean the price of the sought-after item has changed. Before you start shopping, set your own personal reference prices (e.g. only buy an item if it’s 50% off) to prevent yourself from being influenced by dazzling neon lights and products that are on show, but not on sale. Lastly, figure out whether the products you like are about to become obsolete, to determine whether it would be better to wait a few weeks for a more recent model to come out. You should also be particularly wary of huge discounts on technology.

Step 4: take your time

If you only remember one piece of advice, let it be “take your time”. Taking your time is one of the best ways to ward off the marketing techniques employed by your favourite brands. If you’re looking for presents, try to figure out what you want to give well in advance, to avoid a last-minute rush and getting carried away by the allure of sales.

Also remember that, contrary to what brands, websites and stores say, events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday often last a lot longer than a day. Most of the time sales are extended, and limited offers aren’t so limited.

Be patient: this will help you separate your personal preference for an item from any impulsive, heat-of-the-moment desires generated by marketing techniques or a deluge of sales ads.

Step 5: think about experiences rather than things

Do you want to make the most of the sales, but don’t know what to buy? What if – instead of passively buying any old thing – you saved your money for an experience, or for an item that will provide you with a satisfying and entertaining time?

Studies in behavioural economics have shown that experience-based purchases are a “better” financial investment than purely material purchases.

Studies in behavioural economics have shown that experience-based purchases (events, trips, concerts, exhibitions, outings, cooking classes, spa passes, etc.) are a “better” financial investment than purely material purchases. In fact, they have the ability to generate more happiness and satisfaction, strengthen social ties and enhance physical and mental health. Of course, these are major factors that influence our wellbeing.

Faced with temptation during the holiday and sales season, ask yourself if the item you’re looking at will actually help you have a genuine experience, or if it will just end up as yet another thing to add to your ever-growing collection. In other words, it’s best not to buy something if the only pleasure you get from it is the act of buying it – if the only excitement you feel is in the purchase, rather than the joy of using the item itself.

If you’re strapped for gift ideas, consider buying an experience for one of your loved ones (e.g. skydiving, a spa voucher, etc.). These days, sales also cover these kinds of purchases. However, choose wisely. Buying an experience will only make you happy if it is in line with your interests, or those of your friends or family. So don’t opt for this kind of purchase just because it’s on sale (there’s no point buying a skydiving voucher if you’re afraid of heights!).

There you have it – you’re now a shrewd bargain hunter! To take total control of your purchases, learn about the cognitive biases that we all fall for and the marketing techniques employed by your favourite brands. From everyone at myLIFE: happy shopping!