1. Pause between the pick and the purchase.
Wants are the language of the initial intoxicating exposure to dopamine. Anticipation causes a dopamine release, making action feel compelling. Neuroscientists at Emory University found that this delay disrupted dopamine release. Dopamine is the same chemical that, once a purchase is made, diminishes, with “buyer’s remorse” the result. Create a contemplative pause—a space of time between choosing something and paying for it at checkout. Time cures wants.
2. Estimate expenses in detail; pay in cash.
Studies at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland found that people spend less when they have to estimate expenses in detail, as well as when paying cash than when using credit.
3. Simplify your symbolism.
Designer brands are marketed to symbolically represent quality, desirability, and the experience of having arrived. The symbolism of specialness costs more. The qualities that we attribute to brands create a relationship with the brand that produces both desire and the commitment to pay more.
4. Leave emotions at home.
Emotions highjack the logical brain, and along with it, reasonable decisions. Under stress, we may relieve that stress by buying, by hoarding, or by purchasing out of other emotional needs, such as insecurity or a desire to win approval. Don’t shop when tired, hungry, thirsty, or preoccupied. Self-control lowers with stress, depleted energy, or strong emotion.
5. Don’t be special.
Special offers or other indications that you are in a select group—an inner circle of consideration—will make you buy more than you need. Special, exclusive, unique offers induce a desire to respond with gratitude and with purchase. Be suspicious of special offers.
6. Shop alone.
The social contagion of shopping with friends induces a relaxation of usual constraints, as well as the desire to impress friends with purchase.
7. Know what “good enough” is.
Rather than an impossible quest for perfection, or for the unattainable endpoint of “more,” define specifically what good enough is. Having an endpoint lets you know when you arrive, when you can feel satisfaction.
8. Don’t use credit cards.
In numerous studies, individuals spend significantly more—on average 23%—when using credit cards vs. paying cash. Credit cards make money an abstraction, as well as relegating payment to a future time. The immediacy of real money makes it a real consideration.
9. Keep your eye on the ball…
Focus on the immediate, the specific, and its importance.
10. …And your head in the game.
Be aware of the big picture—the scope of importance. In the United States about 1% of the people own 96% of the wealth. Keep the big picture in mind. “Good enough” is the antithesis of “more.”
11. Consider the opportunity cost of your purchase.
Calculate what the money would be worth in five years, in ten years. Consider what the money you are about to spend costs.
12. Consider the absolute value rather than the anchor price.
Evaluate an item you purchase on the basis of the item itself, rather than the stated initial price. Our brains are wired to log in an initial anchor price, then to judge everything subsequently in reference to that anchor price.
13. Consider the actual product and what you will do with it if purchased.
Disregard the brand, the esteem of ownership, and how you will be perceived as its owner. Marketing produces desires we didn’t know we had.
14. Use “free” as a cue to spend more slowly.
Evaluate carefully. “Free” is designed to induce action and minimize consideration.