It's easy for Singaporeans to overspend during Black Friday. Here's how to find real deals and shop the sales like a pro.
As the hottest must-haves arrive in stores for Black Friday sales, Singaporean shoppers need to avoid falling prey to retailer tactics that make us spend more than we should.
Luckily, with a little bit of help from science, we can overcome many of the marketing tricks that come our way as we navigate the start of holiday shopping season. Follow these tips to shopping Black Friday sales like a pro:
1. Make a List and Check it Twice
If you must do your Black Friday shopping at one go, prepare a gift list. Otherwise, you might find yourself with more things than you intended.
This is due to decision fatigue, which is how our good judgment gets worn away as we are forced to make decision after decision within a relatively short space of time. (Hey, that’s the very definition of gift shopping!)
The effect is a little more subtle than this explanation makes it sound. You see, we get a dopamine rush when we buy the perfect gift. This feel-good effect flows over into the next purchase, and so on. By the end of the shopping trip, decision fatigue has taken judgment’s hands off the steering wheel, leaving us coasting along on a cloud of good vibes.
If you’ve ever been confused about why you ever thought some of your purchases were a good idea, this is probably why.
2. Be Careful of Free Gifts
So the other day while paying for my overpriced bottle of shower gel, I asked if there were any discounts or promotions. The helpful lady produced two tiny bottles - one, shower gel and another, body lotion, and told me I could have both for free if I spent another S$30.
Naturally, I said yes and doubled the amount I wanted to spend just to claim that free gift. Never mind that 1) I’ll probably use up the small shower gel in three showers, and 2) I’ll certainly never use the body lotion!
Or maybe I’m just a sucker - after all, I’m buying S$30 shower gel. Surely “free” can’t be that powerful, right?
Amazon would gleefully disagree. When it started offering free shipping to customers who purchased two books instead of one, sales everywhere jumped. Expect in France, where the offer was “1 franc” shipping instead.
The takeaway? “Free” things are anything but. There’s no point adding more items to your shopping cart just to qualify for free shipping (or any other freebies). Most retailers make it such that the cost of your additional purchase will exceed the cost of your “free” gift anyway.
3. Don't Buy Everything in One Go
Our brains don’t work well under duress, and brands know that. Why do you think they advertise things like flash sales and limited stock?
One of the oldest tricks in the marketing book is to bombard shoppers with stimuli to lull them into a subtle complacency. Bright lights, loud music, vibrant colours, confusing layouts, and even air-conditioning temperatures can overwhelm the senses and fatigue the brain. Now imagine adding to that the crowding that happens during peak shopping hours. Are you exhausted just thinking about it?
Online stores are just as guilty, using small font (or in some cases, extra-sized ones), contrasting colours, messy layouts and offers that pop up strategically in a cunning bid to prod you to keep tapping the “Add-to-Cart” button.
So to avoid overspending, consider doing your Black Friday shopping in batches. This way, you’ll be able to stay in control of your finances, or, if you had a misstep, compensate during the next leg of your shopping.
4. Nobody Knows What a Good Deal Looks Like
Would you buy a breadmaker for S$279?
For students of marketing, you probably know where this is going. Williams-Sonoma was having trouble selling their newly launched breadmaker. Instead of writing it off as a failed product, they instead developed a higher-end model, priced it about 60% more and sold it right by their older, cheaper model.
Now, customers started buying their breadmaker. But it was the cheaper model that started flying off the shelf, while the expensive one went largely ignored.
Rather than an inherent understanding of an object’s value, shoppers look for cues in their environment to determine what an item is worth.
Without the more expensive model, Williams-Sonoma’s customers had no way to gauge the value of the cheaper model. Once that yardstick was provided (even though it was completely subjective, biased and made-up), people felt comfortable enough to buy.
You can avoid this trap by researching your desired item thoroughly, especially if it’s something you’re not familiar with. Read customer reviews and search for user photos to see if the item is worth the price, or if you can get something similar for less. Keep in mind that nobody knows what good value looks like, so don’t base your buying decision on store cues alone.
5. Mind the True Cost of your Shopping Spree
When all’s said and done, the true cost of your shopping spree isn’t limited to the figures you see on your receipts.
Remember that you didn’t just spend money on your gifts. You also spent time comparing prices across stores, waiting in line for timed sales or members-only events, and even shipping costs from forwarding services.
All these add up to the true cost of our shopping spree, which we often ignore in our hunt for bargains. Yes, getting a huge discount is intoxicating, but what actually matters is the real costs you paid while getting that deal.
Pro tip: use the right credit card for shopping, like the DBS Black Card, so you can earn points as you score these discounts.
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By Alevin Chan
A Certified Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin's mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He's also on an ongoing quest to optimize happiness and enjoyment in his life.