Follow these 9 tips to avoid getting trapped by seductive back-to-school marketing

A stock image shows a collection of school supplies | Photo by gloriak2700/Pixabay, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — School in Washington and Iron counties starts in a little over a week, a fact that brings a mixture of bitter and sweet sentiments to many parents. One thing that isn’t so sweet, however, is the pending costs of preparing for that return. While many people will be heading into stores to pick up school supplies, there are some simple tips shoppers can follow to avoid overspending.

Jeff Kreisler, Editor-in-Chief of PeopleScience, offered some advice on how to avoid falling prey to enticing marketing tactics.

People often fall victim to  marketing “cues” or “traps” that prey upon one’s cognitive biases, which is the way we make an easy judgment about something. Setting traps with “back-to-school sales” is one of the most easily recognizable tactic, but there are ways to spot them by using the tips below.

1- Beware of the “sale” price.

When you buy something just because it’s on sale, you’re still spending money. For something that used to be $100 but is 35 percent off, you’re not “saving $35;” you’re “spending $65.” Compare the price you’re paying to zero. Compare it to the price of not buying it at all, not to the “original” or “suggested” price, which leads into the next point.

2- Beware the decoy price.

Sales prices are designed to make you think you’re making wise choices, which is why decoy prices work. Decoy prices are prices the seller doesn’t really expect anyone to pay.

Any time there’s an item with three options – the simple one, a middle one and high-priced luxury version – chances are the highest price is a decoy price. Unless you’re an expert in that particular product, chances are you’ll pick the middle one because you don’t want to pay too much or get the cheapest option.

Decoy prices are designed to make us choose the middle one.

3- Don’t allow yourself to be herded.

Just because all your kids’ friends are buying the hottest item like a new phone, smart watch or a three-hole punch doesn’t mean you have to buy one as well. Did you buy Bitcoin just because everyone else said they did? Then you shouldn’t buy three-hole punches either.

4- Don’t overdo it.

There will be pencils, erases and notepads available for purchase in October and February. In fact, since they won’t be in as high demand, they’ll probably be cheaper. Don’t buy it all now. No one is hoarding staples, pens or printers.

5- Beware percentages.

You might be able to save 50 percent on a packet of printer paper that costs $7, but you may pay an extra 10 percent for the $35 printer. Don’t get caught up in the percentages you’re spending or saving; instead, think about the absolutes. How many dollars are leaving your wallet for an item?

6- Pay attention to payment methods.

When we use credit cards or shop online, we often pay less attention to the amount of money we’re paying and make quicker, less-thoughtful purchases. Making purchases with plastic or online are unavoidable, but keep in mind paying in cash may save you money as you make more thoughtful decisions about purchases.

Try to be mindful and treat your payment as if it were cash by stopping and thinking about the amount and if it’s the best choice. Don’t be lulled into one-click and express-pay ways of paying for things, because it’s code for don’t-think and over-pay.

7- Don’t be fooled by the appearance of effort.

If something is labeled “artisanal,” “hand-crafted” or “made with love,” it’s usually a signal that the manufacturer wants you to believe that extra effort went into making it. This triggers our biases to reward effort to think that hard things are more valuable than easy ones. Don’t worry about how hard or how much love went into making something; worry about how much it’s worth to you.

8- Name brands prey on expectations.       

If you have kids who have peers, you probably don’t expect to win every battle. But if every item is the same, then a name brand product only adds a name and our expectations think that it’s more valuable. Your teenage child may not agree, but the generic is often just as good.

9- Don’t sweat everything, just the big stuff.

Don’t worry about spending an extra 10 cents on erasers. Worry about spending an extra $300 on a tablet, $400 on clothes or $25 every month on subscriptions. Remember, your kid won’t win at school just because he or she has the most stuff. Children succeed with love and lots of emotional support.

We can’t change our nature of making quick purchasing decisions based upon these value cues, but we can be aware of them so  we’re less susceptible to their power. The only thing that really matters is our kids and their future happiness.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • DB August 4, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    Don’t skip this article just because you don’t have school-age kids. (I don’t) There is something here for everyone.

  • comments August 4, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    good advice

  • ladybugavenger August 4, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    These are good tips! Retail is all smoke and mirrors and these tips can be applied to all merchandise purchases.

  • Striker4 August 4, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    All Sales are gimmicks

    • Real Life August 5, 2018 at 11:55 am

      Get out of your mommy’s basement and get a job already.

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