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Common Things That Have Us Reaching For Our Wallet

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You’ve just gotten your paycheck, and you’re feeling like a rich boss. You’re going to be responsible this time. You’re going to save up for the latest model smartphone you’ve been wanting. Or you’re going to save some of this check for some unknown future. Cut to a few days later when you check your bank account again and…oh dear. What happened? Truth be told, we’re easily manipulated creatures, and the myriad of companies who want your hard earned cash know this. Here are just a few of the ways we so easily fall to temptation.
One thing that draws many of us in to making unplanned purchases is the sheer convenience of spending money these days. With the coming of the digital age, we saw the rise of the ecommerce website. From the comfort of your couch you can purchase nearly any sort of electronic device, clothes, books, or nearly anything else with virtually no effort. Some services will even let you order your groceries online and have them delivered to your door. And of course these services are filled with ads to encourage spending even more money. Add on top of that the related items they’ll suggest once you’ve completed your purchase (like a digital equivalent of a gas station attendant asking if you’d like anything else), and it’s no wonder we end up with frivolous doodads and lighter pockets. This may all seem somewhat obvious, but think about how much you’d probably save without online shopping. You’d have to actually put forth the effort of going to a store and searching for the item all while having the time to (egad) actually think about the purchase and determine whether it’s a good idea.
Ads Disguised as Entertainment
It doesn’t help our chances that often the things we use as an escape from reality have disguised (or sometimes blatant) ads in them. Product placement in films has been a near constant practice since the medium’s inception, sometimes to great success as when Reese’s Pieces increased in sales nearly 65% after appearing prominently in E.T. The practice of bombarding us with product placements in movies is never going anywhere, but at least it’s a practice that is mostly just annoying if anything.
Something a bit more nefarious was born with the digital age—the practice of microtransactions in video games. By all accounts, the process started with mobile games. Generally free to play, these games would grant players a limited amount of uninterrupted playtime in the beginning, likely in an attempt to get them addicted to the game. Then a choice would come: spend real money to keep playing now or wait for an arbitrary timer to tick down before continuing to make progress. The price was typically small and would often seem relatively harmless. After all, what’s 99 cents every now and again? However, addictive personalities, or sometimes unknowing children, can easily rack up serious charges. An extreme example is one man spending $2 million on a single game.  
Of course, the most controversial type of these transactions is loot boxes in already fully priced games. The concept is essentially that you trade real money for in game items, whether they are cosmetic or functional. Many players consider it insulting to be coerced into paying more money for a game they already purchased. These games typically have in game stores that the player’s attention is drawn to, and there is almost always some sort of link to it on screen. The hope is obvious, that in the long run even players who would have no interest in this sort of thing will eventually cave in. The loot received from these boxes is typically random, and this practice has been so controversial that it has led to the loot box being legally seen as gambling in some countries.
The Classics
Of course, advertisers don’t need the internet to entice you into forking over your cash, and they never have. There are plenty of tried and true techniques that work as well in today’s digitized world as they always have. A notable example is the celebrity endorsement or its opposite, the “plain folks” technique (real people, not actors). How about the classic salesman’s trick of convincing you that you have a problem that you don’t have and then showing how his product is the convenient solution? Of course, they could always try the bandwagon technique. Or why not try to convince you that you’ll save money during a sale by spending it? The truth is, whether it's in our real lives, or in the fictional worlds we try to escape to, we are constantly bombarded by messages wanting us to buy something else. It’s not outside of the realm of reason to refer to it as psychological warfare.
So what can you do about it?
During your next pay cycle, why not perform an experiment? Refrain from using any of your cards during this time, and instead only use cash. This will prevent you from wasting any money online, and you may find yourself less willing to spend on nonessential items when you actually see the money leaving your hand. It can’t hurt anything, and it may help you start saving those checks after all.

Latest Activity: Aug 10, 2018 at 9:38 AM

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