Why Does It feel So Good Indulging On Good Deals?

Why we get such thrills from impulsive purchases.

Why we get such thrills from impulsive purchases.

The psychology of shopping is fascinating, given how counter-intuitive a lot of our buying habits are. On big sale days like Black Friday, it seems we really do leave our rational minds behind when we hit the shops. But why?

Well, as with most human endeavours, it’s all about status and desire. Not only the status of owning a coveted item, but the identity as one of the canny “insiders” who get good deals and who partake in the ritual of frenzied bargain-hunting. By barging through the doors of a big store at 7am you are proving yourself worthy as a warrior in your tribe.

The desire not to be left out, or to miss something others know about, is another major motivator, and there’s even a neurological dimension to our obsession with nabbing cut-price goods. Psychologists have found that feeling we are getting a bargain activates the reward centre of our brain (a key pleasure-zone) whereas thinking we have been conned can actually make us feel pain.

As any marketer knows, impulsive purchases are some of the most lucrative. That’s why shop assistants at sale times might offer you a glass of bubbly or even compliment you on your looks: to break down any barriers between what you need and what you want.

But why does it feel so good to buy something you don’t need? Research has found that we shop most impulsively at times of stress - individually, and en masse after a natural disaster, for example - and are more likely to do it when we’re with friends. Put simply, it lightens the mood and makes us feel cool and carefree again. After all, most of us would rather be that person who cheekily splurges two hundred quid on a beautiful pair of shoes, than the one buying loo paper in bulk from Lidl (even though the Lidl shopper is probably on a quicker path to financial good health than the Blahnik-oholic).

Impulsive shopping is all about the desire to feel fulfilled and thrilled. And retailers capitalise on this by making us stress out that we only have a limited amount of time to get that good deal. Big, shiny toys whose purchase is encoded in a culturally sanctioned ritual give us a massive high. We’re only human, after all. So we say be self-aware and forgive yourself if you do make a silly purchase. But do try to remember our tips from the previous article about shopping safely, and then the crash after the Black Friday sugar-rush won’t leave you weeping over your bank statement next month...


Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash.