Bargain hunting can save you money, and who doesn’t love a bargain? Of course, we all do. But for some people, looking for the next “great deal” becomes an addiction. The call of the clearance rack wins out over practical matters like common sense and whether you need or want what you found. You may not even have a place to put it. I’m almost positive you have some things hanging in your closet right now that still have the tags on them from way back when you got “that great bargain”.
Getting a “bargain” on something that you will never need or use is a complete waste of your time and money!
Studies show that almost 18 million adults have a shopping addiction and it’s often associated with CBD, Compulsive Buying Disorder, which I wrote about here last year.
But “bargain brain” is a little bit different because it’s even more specific and troublesome as it focuses on the thrill of the bargain and not just the urge to shop itself.
What is Bargain Brain?
Experts say it’s as powerful as any drug or alcohol addiction and can leave people drowning in debt. So, here’s the question: What are the reasons “bargain brain” and its addiction are so common?
Tim Kasser, a professor of psychology at Knox College in Illinois, says bargain brain is a way for people to ease insecurities, and feel more competent and in control. Over the last decade he has been especially focused on studying “materialistic values” i.e., being wealthy, having many possessions, being attractive, and being popular. He is the author of numerous scientific articles and several books including “The High Price of Materialism” and “Psychology and Consumer Culture” (co-edited with Allen D. Kanner).
Kasser writes that shopping addicts often don’t realize they have a problem, even when the bags and bills start stacking up. It usually takes a big event to bring it to their attention, like a divorce, a new baby, unemployment, or retirement. Or more often than not, when they simply max out their credit cards and have no more spending power. So, how can you tell if you are a bargain junkie?
5 Tell-Tale Signs You Suffer from Bargain Brain
- You hit the sales and clearance racks when you feel angry or blue.
- You feel guilty after shopping and hide your purchases.
- You spend more money than you can afford because you see sales as opportunities you just can’t pass up.
- You spend so much time tracking down deals that it intrudes on your time with work, family, and friends.
- You often forget what you bought and then find things in your closets you’ve never used.
Why You Cave in to Bargain Brain Strategies
As soon as we enter any store (online or offline), we are bombarded with psychological tactics in an attempt to get us to buy more and more products (such as selling products that have a price ending in $.99).
Those prices are used to convince you that you are spending less than you actually are. A price reduction on top of that makes it even more tempting. The bargain price is appealing to you because it challenges the status quo. The retailer appears not to be in complete control of the final price of the product, maybe even desperate to sell, and this makes you feel that you are now in control. Because of that you feel you can negotiate the final price that you have to pay, whether that is the sale price or even a buy one, get one free deal. Brain studies have shown that when we are excited by a bargain it interferes with our ability to clearly judge whether it is actually a good offer or not. Thus, bargain brain has taken over.
Is It Really True That “The more you buy, the more you save”?
When it comes to bargain brain, what people buy isn’t as important as how big the price reduction is. In fact, the bigger the price cut, the more tempting a purchase is. After all, if something’s 80% off the original price you’re saving 80 percent, right? What you may not consider is that by not buying you’ll save 100%. So, my version of that old saying is really this: “the more you buy, the more you spend!”
Bargain addicts even make illogical purchases like grabbing up sale-price auto parts for cars they don’t own, or even buying bargain kid’s clothes for children they don’t have.
So Why is This Bargain-Hunting Addiction so Common?
Some warning signs of bargain brain tap directly into the core components of addiction. But, many of the criteria have nothing to do with addiction whatsoever. Using bargain hunting as a way of making oneself feel better mirrors what is found in other addictions, but characteristics such as not being able to pass up a bargain, and forgetting what has been bought are not core signs of addiction. They are idiosyncratic consequences that specifically relate to bargain hunting.
Survey Findings from Consumer Reports
According to Consumer Reports, 23% of women say they sometimes buy things they don’t need just because they’re on sale. For most of us, getting a discount is enough of a reward but others would say they would hunt for a bargain even if money weren’t an issue for them. In general, the survey found bargain shopping has increased significantly, from 76% of our shopping in 2011 to 83% today. One reason may be due in part to the growing use of smartphone coupons which has increased from 11% in 2011 to 24% today.
Human psychology may help explain the irresistible allure of a discount. Research suggests that people tend to enjoy bargains, regardless of whether any financial gain is involved. You might even be able to blame your bargain hunting on Mom and Dad, because some experts say genetic differences make certain people predisposed to finding pleasure in raiding the sale rack. Not only might they have taught you the lessons and skill of bargain hunting but you may have the genes passed through them to do it!
How Can You Fight Off Bargain Brain?
Having lived inside retail stores for over half my life (in retail management, not as a mannequin), I can advise you on a few good ways to combat bargain brain short of locking yourself inside your home and never shopping again.
- Try to avoid stores that play really loud music. This can confuse and distract you from judging what is or is not a real needed bargain.
- Take a minute and ask the salesperson to explain sales details in a clear and slow manner and if possible ask him/her to write them down for you to avoid misunderstanding.
- Before you make any decision to purchase, take a break, count from one to ten, and think again about the benefits and need for this purchase. If possible, even wait 24 hours.
- Can you shop alone? Peer pressure has been proven to be a key indicator for individuals buying products that they do not need.
- Never shop when you are feeling emotionally upset. Purchasing to overcome any bad mood or depression is not beneficial for you or your wallet. Shop when you are in a good and clear minded mood. Shopping when you’re down makes you spend more than you intended.
- Check out professional help on sites like Shopaholics Anonymous or Debtors Anonymous for tips and help.
Are you falling victim to bargain brain? Is bargain hunting an obsession for you or just the way you use to save on things you actually need and use? Are you so into being a bargain hunter that it actually causes you to dig a deep hole of debt? What are you doing to make sure this never happens to you?