The Psychology Of A Bargain

Love yourself a good deal, do ye?

Photo by Mica Asato

Let’s be real here – we all love a bargain.

Nothing gets the dopamine going like finding that dress you’ve had your eye on for months hanging there in the store at half price, and it’s in your size too! ‘It’s fate’ you think as you march it up to the tills. Then there’s the obligatory bragging of that story to every poor person who compliments the dress after too.

What is it about nabbing a bargain that makes us all so feral? Is it the thrill of the hunt? Or the fun in having a story to tell? If you’re no stranger to feeling a thrill when the sales assistant hands over a crisp shopping bag containing your latest purchase, you’re most certainly not the only one to feel that way.

Money Mindset Coach Kel Galavan says that the happiness experienced through bargain hunting and acquiring is layered. First and foremost bagging a bargain is deeply rooted in the concept of ‘loss aversion’, i.e. the pain of losing something is greater than the pleasure of gaining something of equal value.

“When we find a bargain, we feel like we’ve gained something valuable while avoiding the potential loss of paying full price,” says Kel. On top of that, there’s also the old classic dopamine rush we get from buying something new and shiny, “Finding a bargain activates the reward centre in our brains. The release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, gives us a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. This satisfaction can be further exaggerated if we feel like we’ve outsmarted the seller or if the bargain was hard to find or involved some effort on our part.”

In other words, we’re hunters (just normal women) out in the wild (the shops) hunting for prey (nice clothes and stuff). Seizing a good deal seems to spark our most primal instincts, and I wonder if the current cost of living crisis we’re experiencing will exasperate those needs.

Cost of living

With the price of pretty much everything soaring, so many households are being forced to rethink their spending habits and find new ways to pinch those pennies. For someone who was once used to buying new clothes and other bits when the fancy took them, it can be hard to kick the habit.

So instead, it’s natural to look for ways to treat ourselves without parting with as much money as we once did. “When prices are rising, and we hear about it every day in the media, we can be more aware of the costs of goods and services and may be more motivated to seek bargains and discounts,” says Kel. “The current environment creates a heightened awareness of the value of money and the need to be more mindful of spending.”

Finding a good buy can also be as much about gaining control as it can actually be needing the item. Kel explains that during a cost of living crisis, naturally people feel unsure and insecure about the future. We can’t control the price of bread and milk going up each time we go to the shops, but we can control buying that new kettle we need now that it’s 20% off.

While replacing your broken kettle at a discounted rate is a bargain well sought, trouble can brew when we’re taking home bargains, just for the hell of it. If you’re buying a new pair of shoes that are too painful to wear just because they were on offer, you’re actually losing more money in the long run.

Photo by The 5th

Kel says that there are some warning signs to look out for to make sure you don’t lose the run of yourself in bargains-ville. Continuous impulse buying, overspending, and hoarding are all signs to look out for when it comes to your attitude toward shopping.

“If you find yourself buying things just because they’re on sale or discounted and not because you actually need them, you may be taking things too far. Similarly, if you’re spending more money than you can afford to take advantage of a bargain, you may be putting yourself in financial danger.

How to be a savvy bargain buyer

There’s a balance to be found between being the ultimate bargain finder, and an oniomaniac (it means shopaholic, Google it).

Kel shares her top tips to help you find the best bargains, without taking things too far.

Do your research:

“Before buying anything, research the item you want and compare prices at different online and in-store stores. Check for any ongoing sales, discounts, or coupons you can use.”

Set a budget:

“Determine how much you’ll spend on the item and stick to your budget. Don’t get swayed by a seemingly good bargain if it pushes you into debt.”

Be patient:

“Sometimes, waiting for a sale or discount can help you get a better deal. Don’t rush into a purchase unless you really need the item immediately. If the thing is worth it, it will still be worth it in a few months’ time.”

Quality check:

“Just because something is on sale or discounted doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Make sure to check the quality of the item before making a purchase.”

Beware of scams:

“Be wary of scams that promise unrealistic discounts or deals that seem too good to be true. Always buy from reputable sellers and retailers. Check their review and always look for the lock in the top left-hand corner of the screen.”