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Tame Your Shopaholic Demons by Shopping Smarter

Although the act of shopping can be quite rewarding and more than a tad euphoric, the aftermath is more often than not maddening, especially when you’re confronted with too few zeroes in your bank balance, or worse, a truly frightening credit score. It’s worse when we buy stuff that we neither need nor even want. No, the very act of shopping does not always make sense, but we keep doing it anyway, not always knowing the why of it. We can always blame clever marketing for our less than stellar compulsions, but at the end of the day, nobody’s taking our finances hostage but ourselves. So here are some things to keep in mind to make sure that your shopaholic demons (or those clever marketers) don’t win.

Know that commerce is designed to seduce you.

Be aware that businesses really, really know what they’re doing. They know that the best way to get you to shell out your hard-earned cash is by appealing to your vulnerable senses and your base desires. Retailers are veritable experts at tailoring their displays to appeal to their target demographics. Brands like Abercrombie & Fitch parade ripped, shirtless men amidst loud dance music to get hormonal young people to enter their stores. Jewelry stores employ mood lighting to bring out the sparkle from their merchandise. And have you ever wondered why you are always assaulted by the smell of minty eucalyptus the moment you open their doors? Suffice it to say, businesses know the amazing value of the right come-on and will exploit it to the max.

Self-awareness is the key to good buys.

Studies show that there are only two real categories of shoppers. There are the low self-monitors who shop based on their personal preferences with nary a care for social feedback. On the other hand, there are high self-monitors who care heavily about trends, buying to fit in. By simply knowing what your shopping temperament is—and by extension, your preferences—you ensure that you will actually use what you bought, instead of letting it languish forgotten in a closet or cupboard somewhere.

Choose your shopping partners wisely.

As fun as it may sound to shop with a gaggle of girlfriends, you have to know that this has a huge impact on your buying decisions. This is because of a phenomenon known as “group-level consideration.” Basically, it is the group that establishes the spending norms, not you as an individual, and combined with peer pressure, this is the most effective way to get sidetracked. Case in point—you may personally feel that $600 on a pair of shoes is too much; but if the group thinks it’s reasonable, you may be compelled to accept the general consensus. And yes, even if it is well out of your budget.

Beware of freebies.

Nothing gets the heart-pumping like the word, “free.” Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist, tested a group of shoppers at a mall once. He gave them two choices—a $10 gift certificate for free, or a $20 gift certificate at only $7. Surprise, surprise—the majority chose the free $10 gift certificate. This, despite the certainty of a $13 profit on the other option. And then there are those offers wherein they give you a long list of freebies if you would just shell out money for a product that you don’t actually need or particularly want. You might be surprised to know that there are more people who fall for those than people who don’t. Truly, “free” is, more often than not, a trap for the unsuspecting consumer, so proceed with caution.

Use the search box when buying online.

Studies have shown that when online shopping, it’s always a good idea to use the search box function to actually search for the specific item you’re looking for, rather than browsing through category links. This is because doing a search brings you straight to your item of choice, as opposed to going through other items, which may compel you to browse and fill up your shopping cart.

Indeed, shopping can be a huge pitfall that’s hard to crawl out of if you somehow fall into it. But if you shop smart with awareness and savvy, you and your bank account could get away unscathed—and maybe even enjoy savings in the process!

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