Why do we buy what we do? Many people buy designer shoes to the most recent smartphone model, not because they genuinely want or need that product but because of external forces. You may think you need those items not because your current phone or shoes are in poor shape but because it's new and is what everyone else owns.
As a consumer, you have every right to buy what you want. Yet, it would help if you saw what's really behind those purchase decisions as a person. Understanding why you want to make a purchase is critical because you don't want other people to influence how you spend your money.
What External Influences Are Impacting You?
It's easy not to learn which external influences influence your decisions because it's such a big part of the American consumer industry. Marketing is everywhere, from product placements within the Netflix programs you stream to social media influencers who want you to buy their sponsored products. Take a look at some of these factors that influence your decision-making.
Ads are everywhere you look. Every time you see an ad, it might influence you somehow. Those ads may be funny, engaging, thought-provoking, or just a simple product description. Still, they all leave an imprint in your mind about the product. Companies use ads to sell directly and build their brand, so you remember them and want to own what they sell.
Consider what happens when you see a billboard on your drive to work or school. You pick up your phone and search for it to see what it's all about. Then, over the next few days, you keep seeing ads on your social media accounts and email, all for the same product. Online marketing technology keeps you engaged. Every time you see that ad, you think about the product and want it even more.
Television, YouTube, and a wide range of other media resources are some of the most impactful advertisers today. They are external forces in many ways. Perhaps you watch a video and see a product placed in it, and you then want that product even though you hadn't thought about it in a while. A simple example of this is a drink like Pepsi. You see a character on your favorite show drinking one, think about it, and then want it.
That happens multiple times throughout the day, and often you don't even realize it. It's glimpses of logos or even big product placement ads during commercials. Media also influences your decisions, such as making you think products are good or bad. For example, the use of vape products became influential because of the hype around their use in popular music, encouraging people to use those products.
From your favorite movie character to a sports star, most people pay more attention when celebrities have something to say. Often, they get paid to influence you on all types of merchandise with the sole goal of helping those items get sold. Though celebrities may have talent, they may not always be experts on the products they are selling.
Other external factors are peers and friends. If you have friends who are using something, you may want to use it also. It's natural for people to want what others have, and if a friend has something and they love it, you may want that, too.
Friends share stuff on social media, and they connect with other people who share things. There's no doubt that all of this, combined with ads and media, makes it super easy for you to learn about new products.
How to Avoid "Influenced" Spending
Influenced spending isn't part of the picture when it comes to sensible money management. The more you can refrain from buying things you do not need (and frequently end up not liking or using), the more you can be in control of your financial future. So, how do you do this?
Recognize What Is Happening
An excellent place to start is paying close attention to what's happening when you see a product or service advertised. What tactics are companies using to control your decisions?
- Are you receiving promotions that encourage you to buy a product or service or stop at a retail location?
- Do companies send you exclusive offers, discounts, special codes, membership deals, or other product information that aims to convince you to buy?
- Check out your social media for external influences? You may see ads placed throughout your feed, in groups, or videos recommended for you. Do companies request that you follow them?
Document What Triggers Your Spending Influences
What temps you to make an impulse purchase? Analyze what is going on in your mind when you see these ads. For example, do you like something just because a celebrity does? Do you feel good about purchasing something because now you have what others have? Sometimes a sale is the most significant influence. If the deal is too good, you don't feel like you can pass it up, even if you are not buying the items you need.
Know that it's pretty normal to feel like this, and you're not alone in being 'under the influence' of advertisers. However, you can retain some control over your spending by understanding what's happening. Before buying something this week, ask yourself why you're buying it.
Control External Factors as Much as Possible
You don't have to give up your favorite streaming shows but perhaps walk away when the ads come on. Take a closer look at who you are following on social media. Do they offer real value to you, or do they just encourage you to make purchases? Sometimes it's a matter of getting rid of some deal sites or couponing sites, but sometimes you need to unfollow companies. Unsubscribe from mailing lists that may also contribute to your desire to buy.
Know When Something Is a Necessity
Become good at determining if what you are buying is something you need rather than want. If you purchase this item, will it add to your life in some way that makes it worth busting through your budget?
One way to do this is to create a rule where you give yourself at least 24 hours before you decide to purchase something valuable. That way, you can analyze it and give yourself time to determine if this is something that's going to add value to your life.
Making a few changes to your life like this can help you remain in control of your finances. Instead of going into debt to purchase products that you don't need or want, you can better control your future spending and financial goals.