Be an Intelligent Consumer

With the economy in the doldrums, many companies are dusting off some psychological inducements to get consumers to open their wallets. Ad campaigns that stress the fact that you "deserve" whatever is being sold are becoming more common.

With the economy in the doldrums, many companies are dusting off some psychological inducements to get consumers to open their wallets. Ad campaigns that stress the fact that you “deserve” whatever is being sold are becoming more common.

There are some ways to counter these tactics, say consumer experts. The first step involves analyzing your mind set. Buying an item should trigger some questions. Are you buying it because it will make your life easier, or just because you want it? Will you use it a lot or will it gather dust before it’s eventually junked?

A closer look at the long term can also help. Once you get the item home, you have to find a place to put it, and it may involve some upkeep, which often spawns another round of buying. You’ll need a place to store that new weed whacker, for example, not to mention the gas and oil that it runs on. If you’re not going to use it often, why buy one when you can rent one when you need it for a fraction of the cost?

If the item is a “must-have,” you can save money by pricing it online, even if you don’t actually buy it through the Internet. This strategy assumes that you’re shopping for a specific item. That’s also a good idea, but most consumers don’t have a specific item in mind when they shop; surveys of mall shoppers have found that only 25% go there to buy a particular item.

Tip: Shoppers are divided psychologically between hunters and gatherers. Be a hunter. Hunters will usually spend less money because they’re focused on buying one or two things rather than whatever appeals to them at the moment.