If you have been considering buying a tablet, you have for sure heard that RIM dropped the prices of their playbooks by $3oo dollars. Like many people I was very tempted to go right to the closest shopping center and pick one up, but I didn’t, because every store I went to was already sold out. While my weekend experience doesn’t lend me the most credibility for managing impulsive buying, I have learned a few tricks to keep this bad habit in check. I do admit I am known as the “impulsive one” by my friends, and they will talk to me before they talk to my wife if they want to go out and do things. Impulsiveness can be fun at times, but it has a way of surprising you at the end month when that credit card statement comes in the mail.
See -Through the Advertising
Today’s marketing machines are really quite brilliant when you sit back and look at them in an analytical light. Almost every product advertised promises to improve your life in some way shape or form. When people buy a product they get what economists call “utility” (if Economists were content with not trying to over complicate a concept, they could have have just used “satisfaction,” but they didn’t so we are stuck with utility). People consume to gain utility. The funny thing about consumption is that studies done to measure a person’s overall level of happiness have found that a person doesn’t get any happier with the more products they own. Once the basic necessities are covered, additional purchases don’t correlate into increased happiness. This basic necessity has been determined to be equivalent to about a $10,000 salary. Advertising at its core is designed to make us feel dissatisfied with our current status, and offer us the promise that we can buy ourselves out of our current state into a happier one. Unfortunately this cycle never ends because we never learn to become satisfied with what we have. My point in all of this is that if you are not happy with what you have, you are probably not going to be happier with more stuff. Reflecting back on my university days, I am really not that much happier. Despite having way more stuff and a steady income, I can’t honestly say I am happier. I actually think I was happier back in university because things were simpler and I was always around my friends. Take a moment and think about this for yourself. I would like to hear what you think.
Impulsive purchasing starts with seeing, hearing, or experiencing a new product. Another way that I keep advertising from getting to me is to make fun of the advertisement, or pick it apart. It can be entertaining and if you have a partner, it can be a source of conversation. Once you get in the rhythm, a lot of the advertisements are quite ridiculous, but effective (the Axe commercials for instance). Another way to combat advertising is to limit your exposure to it. This is easy for me because I only grew up with CTV and CBC, and never really became attached to TV.
Make a List of Needs and Wants
Making a list of what you need and what you want is the quickest and easiest management technique. Be honest with yourself when you make this list. Your “Wants” list should be much larger than your “Needs” list. When you get the urge to get some utility with a new purchase, a quick check of the list might be enough to snap yourself out of the impulsive mood. You can use these lists not only to limit your buying but also to focus it. After compiling the list and prioritizing the items, when something on your “Needs”, or even your “Wants” list appears on the weekly Future Shop flyer, you can go out and buy it. By having it on the list in the first place means you have had to think about it, and rationalize the purchase. You also will become more aware of the products and deals out there, hopefully causing you to look around for the best deal. This is about as close as the modern urban man can get to hunting, and yes it does feel good.
The Playbook is clearly a “Want” item for me. I have been considering a tablet since April. Given the current price, it has jumped to the top of my list. There are other things on our list as well, like a food processor, but they are less fun for me. I use the lists to prioritize purchases and practice a little budgeting with the things I want to buy. If I have an impulse to buy something I add it to the list. If I still think I need it after a few days it stays up there, anything else gets erased.
Advertisement is playing to your emotional needs, not your rational needs. Ask yourself immediately after you feel the urge to go and buy something “Do I need this?” or “Have I been thinking of buying this for a long time.” If the answer is “No” to both of these questions you should tell yourself to stop right there. If one of the two is “No,” then you can consider the purchase a little longer. Going back to the argument that we really truly don’t need anything over the basics, yes you probably don’t need it, but buying something is fun and there is nothing wrong with enjoying it. Just make sure you can afford it.
In my case, my laptop is getting a little old. I have had to replace the battery and the hard drive already, plus give it some more RAM so it could run a newer OS. It still works perfectly well for what we use it for, and I have a desktop that I use for the more demanding tasks. Strictly speaking I don’t need a tablet in addition to the laptop and desktop that I already have. However, my laptop will become obsolete soon, if it doesn’t break before that happens. So I have been looking at a tablet as my laptop replacement, and have been waiting for a good price to come along. So I don’t need a tablet, but I have been thinking about one ever since I lost everything on my laptop hard drive.
Everything is always on Sale
One of the biggest reasons why I feel the need to go out and buy something right now is because I see it on sale and think that I will never get a chance at this deal again. The truth is that the item you covet will be on sale again, or a very similar product will go on sale next week. This is hard to convince yourself of once you are in the mood to go and get some utility, so I recommend picking an item and watching how often it goes on sale. My favorite is mattresses. The concept that everything is always on sale came to me through a review website when I was shopping for a new bed. After I bought my mattress I continued to follow the sales for awhile to see how true this was. It wasn’t always the same brand or company, but there was always a mattress on sale in every category. Try one of your favorite products and see for yourself.
The playbook is on sale now until Black Friday weekend, but Boxing Day is just around the corner. If I don’t get it this weekend, I will wait. Plus, I am pretty confident that the price won’t go far from it’s current offering seeing how RIM lowered it in part to compete with the Kindle Fire that is due to be released soon.
Keep Your Wallet At Home
This might work only for me, but if I am going out for a walk with my wife I leave my wallet at home. My reasoning is that if I am leaving the house without the intention to buy something, I obviously don’t need anything. This extra pocket space that I have does so much more than allow me to carry more of my sweethearts’ belongings, it puts the money in her control. She is less impulsive than I am so if I see something that I must have, I have to beg her for it. Having someone to slow you down and discuss if you really truly need that new product can often stop you from a regretful purchase.
Create an Impulse Account
Putting a little money aside from every paycheck into a separate “impulse account” can go a long way to managing your cash flow. It also acts as an immediate check because if the account is empty you can’t, or shouldn’t, buy anything. Putting $50 a paycheck can build-up fast and can leave you more satisfied (and less guilty) with your purchase because this is what this money is for. ING Direct is great for this because they will automatically transfer the money to this account for you.
I do this for renting vehicles. I don’t own a car and when I do need one I just rent one. I know it is much cheaper to rent than to own a car in my situation, but it costs around $200 a weekend. This is a big mental barrier for me which has caused me to just stay home instead of going to visit friends. By putting little money aside into a “car fund”, I can rent a car guilt free because that is what the money is there for.
Do Not Upgrade
Upgrading, spelled with two ‘d’s’ to enforce that this should be avoided at all costs. Upgrading is everywhere now because retailers know we are so susceptible to it. It is usually not worth your money, much like the warranty at Future Shop, and it always results in you spending more money than you previously planned to. Upgrading happens fast and always just before you can claim your prize. I typically give myself a little pep-talk before I go into a store. “I will buy product X, no more, no less”. If you go out to buy something, know the sticker price you are going to pay and stick to it. Do not accept any compromises as they will only hurt your wallet and leave you less satisfied in the end.
This weekend the 16GB Playbooks were sold out, but some stores had some 32GB Playbooks for $100 more, and 64GB for $200 more. I get 32GB USB sticks given to me for free at work, so paying $100 more for the amount of memory is clearly not worth it. At the time it sure was tempting though. Probably the only thing that saved me was the look of disapproval I would have received when I got home (the pep-talk helps, but disapproval is way more effective). Don’t Upgrade!
The biggest sale weekend for Americans is almost here, and Boxing Day is only a month away. It is fun to get caught up in the spirit of it all and to walk away with a great deal is an amazing feeling. The feeling is better if you have been planning to buy the item for a long time but have been waiting for the right moment. As for me, I am going to Future Shop tomorrow to see if they re-stocked their shelves. It is the 16GB playbook for me or nothing. Wish me luck, and happy shopping this weekend.