It’s that time of year again, the time for buying gifts and attending Christmas festivities, and when companies put a lot of money behind their marketing efforts. With so many people already struggling to stick to a budget, succumbing to deceptive marketing tactics can mean going into debt.
Luckily, all it takes to resist these tactics is knowing what to look out for ahead of time. Here are five of the most popular ways retailers entice you to spend more than your budget allows.
Christmas or Limited Edition
Have you ever seen the long lines for holiday edition coffee cups or the chaos that occurs on the first day of Pumpkin Spice Season? You’d be surprised how many of those people in line aren’t even coffee drinkers; they’re just there for the limited edition cup and are spending $6 on a drink they won’t even want.
The same thing happens in retail stores all over the place. Holiday and Limited Edition products that simply have different packaging will entice many shoppers to spend more. Is that snowflake-covered bath gel worth the extra $5 when you’re trying to use the snowball debt plan to pay down your credit cards? Save the seasonal marketing for someone less savvy than you and stick to the regular (and possibly cheaper) option.
2. Exclusive gift sets
Gift sets are great for fans of a brand or as a good catch-all gift for someone you don’t know well. However, like Holiday Limited Edition items, many gift sets aren’t as value-packed as the packaging says. Many gift sets will include smaller sizes of popular products at a markup or will consist of products that they’re trying to get rid of by combining them with the best-sellers. Before buying a gift set for yourself or a loved one, consider whether it’s cheaper or less wasteful just to get the full-sized version instead.
3. Spend X and get Y free
“Spend $50 and get $5 back!” is a popular marketing method used during the holidays, particularly with gift cards. The theory behind this is tempting those who would’ve only spent $25 or $30 to increase their purchase price simply to get money or another gift card back. If you already planned to get that $50 gift card, that $5 bonus is a welcome discount. But if you had only planned to go for $25, then don’t let a $5 bonus entice you to spend $25 more. In the end, even though you’re getting something of value back, it’s only good if it saves your original budget money.
4. Buy one get one 50% off
Buy-One-Get-One-50%-Off is a marketing tactic used to make you buy more because of the “deal.” However, if you weren’t planning to get a second one already, then you’re spending money needlessly. Don’t let BOGO50 deals tempt you to spend more than you need for things you or your family won’t use.
5. Countdown timers on checkout pages
If you see a timer on a checkout page, you’re now dealing with pressure marketing. That countdown timer uses psychology to make you feel that your opportunity to purchase something is dwindling and that you have to act now.
In reality, many of these countdown timers are tied to your browser’s cookies and can be reset by deleting your cache and cookie sessions. However, this isn’t always the case for hot items of the year. Still, open a new tab or browse incognito to see if the timer changes. If not, you’ll still have the original window open and can checkout during the time allowed.
The bottom line
If you want to make it through the holidays without going into credit card debt, the best approach is to begin by following a plan and knowing what marketing tactics are out there that can make you stumble. This articles mentioned the most typical ones but there are more if you care to read on. Keep an eye out for these five popular ways companies try to make you spend more and decide whether you’re really getting your money’s worth or just falling for a marketing ploy.