CAUTION: These might make you overspend

Coupons. Discounts. Sales. We all love them. Anything that allows us to keep more money in our pocket can only be a good thing, right?

Any signage at stores that says "buy one, get one free" or "50% off" can be so disarming. It's as if it gets our "spend money" sensors tingling.

Ironically, coupons and deals compel us to spend money we would otherwise not shell out.

Most consumers don't want to feel like they're missing out on a great bargain, so they're willing to purchase something they might not even need or be interested in. It's all psychological: we  care more about saving money than the actual product we're getting.

"If I don't jump on this deal now, the price might go back up." Or so our thinking goes.

Is it any wonder retailers have been so successful at driving shoppers to the checkout lines by imposing time windows? ("Hurry! This deal ends soon.")

I work in and studied marketing and psychology. One of the most effective tactics for getting consumers to fork over their hard-earned money is to make them feel as though they'll be missing out by not seizing upon it. 

No one likes to be left with feelings of regret. The thought of other people scoring a great deal while we stay on the sidelines is too painful for some to bear. The "sting" of parting with your money is made less so by the fact that you're getting something in return -- whether it's a free product, a second one for half off, and so forth.

Here's my tip:

A sale or discount comes in handy when you know it's a product you're going to use. Why stock up on something you're going to leave piling up dust in the closet or drawer? Many consumers assume they'll use the product in the future. Unfortunately, they forget it's there, and once they stumble upon the item months or years later, it has expired or become worn out.

Even my wife is guilty of this. Last year, she took advantage of a "buy one, get one free" deal for salad dressing. She must have bought at least eight of those things. It turned out she overestimated just how much salad we'd be eating in the coming months, and some got so old that we had to discard them.

If you must take advantage of the deal, don't buy so much of the product that the supply far exceeds the demand in your household.

At the end of the day, if we fail to make use of the items we buy, it ends up being a bad deal after all. Even if you saved some money, you still had to spend money to get it. And if the product stays sitting somewhere in your house, it's the merchant you bought it from that gets the last laugh.

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