Gift Cards Travel The Mysterious Magnetism of a Sale
Why do you get so excited when you use a 40% off coupon from that-new-couponing-app?
Why do you get so excited over those savings that you tell every person within earshot, and do a little happy-dance in the car when no one is looking?
Why do we text all our friends when we find out about a flash sale, so we can turn it into a day out on the town?
Why do we search for coupons and sales and deals, share them like cult secrets with our closest friends, and come home from a big sale like we’ve just won a yacht on a game show?
Partly because saving money is amazing. And partly because of three factors: guilt, freedom, and friendship.
Why we hate spending full price
What did your parents teach you about money? They probably taught you to save it. And they probably taught you that wasting it was - to quote their exact words - “bad.”
You have to be responsible with money. You shouldn’t waste it. If you really want to give your kids a college education, you shouldn’t spend too much on luxuries for yourself - you’ll need that savings later.
So an adult, when you’re out shopping, and you spend a little extra money on something (or buy something full-price when you could have used a coupon) - how do you feel?
You probably feel creeping guilt: “I shouldn’t have spent that money. I could have saved it”
And that’s where coupons come in.
Why we love deals
Coupons and sales are like a magic spells that let us have (just about) everything we could want: Coupons and sales allow us to “save” and “spend” at the same time. When I use a coupon, I know I can still put some money aside in my savings. I can leave the store feeling free from guilt, knowing that my decision to buy something for myself didn’t interfere with my retirement fund. We love coupons and sales because they free us to enjoy shopping without the guilt of wasting money.
RetailMeNot surveyed over 2,000 people to discover why people love coupons and how good coupons really make us feel. One finding: 28% of millennials said that finding an item on sale is “better than getting the last slice of pizza.” Another question found that almost one in five people are as excited for a sale as they are for their birthday.
Feeling free to create the life we want is important. One part of that freedom is the ability to buy what we want, and coupons give us that freedom.
What is a “good deal,” really?
So, what exactly qualifies as a good deal for most people? Is it the $1-off-a-bottle-of-shampoo coupon, the 40%-off-flash-sale, something else?
A Coupons.com study found that something as small as $10 off can increase the hormone oxytocin in your body (that’s the “love hormone” that helps moms bond with their kids). So savings doesn’t have to be massive to give us a thrill - but it helps. RetailMeNot found that the biggest factor in making a customer feel like they’ve “won” while couponing is “getting a good deal on an expensive item.” While $10 off will make you feel good, then, $100 off will make you feel better (that makes sense, right?). Other factors RetailMeNot found to be significant included friends’ reactions and the impact on your bank account - again, no huge surprises there.
Bargain-shopping as a social event.
You read this and thought “Black Friday,” didn’t you?
There are dozens of shopping “events” outside of Black Friday that have become traditions for shoppers (semi-annual sales and 4th of July sales at certain department stores are just a couple examples). Hoever, Black Friday is certainly the most well-known.
Most of us have wondered at some point: “What makes thousands of people plan their week around a busy shopping event? Could there be something other than the savings?” Even if you’re a Black Friday shopper, you may not understand the people who flock to semi-annual sales or line up for deals over other holidays.
At the beginning, I listed three reasons we’re attracted to deals: guilt, freedom, and friendship. We’ve already looked at guilt and freedom. This is where friendship plays its part.
Going to a high-stakes sale with your friends is like going to Vegas with your friends: there’s usually a lot of colorful, glittering decor around the event, the other people there are buzzed with energy (we assume), and there’s some adrenaline in the air. There’s risk - you may not find what you were looking for. It’s a low risk, though: you’re fairly certain to leave with a few goodies for your money, and you’ll definitely leave with new memories.
That’s what motivates people to plan their lives around semi-annual sales, holiday sales, and big coupon releases. Sales are exciting, yes, but memories of tearing through sale racks looking for Christmas gifts? Those are priceless.
Another reason people plan their lives around a sale: guilt (yep, we’re back to the beginning). If you miss a big sale, you don’t get a second chance to save that money. Missing out on a sale is like automatically doubling prices for yourself. On top of missing out on saving money, you could miss out on experiencing the Vegas-like sale dash - especially painful if your friends went to the store without you.
Putting a sale on the calendar isn’t crazy. Actually, it’s a way of planning your life around making memories and saving money. It’s a way of taking control of your life and living it on your terms.
Passing on the benefits.
The best part of bargain shopping, though, might be the aftermath.
After the crowds have cleared, after the shopping bags have been unpacked, when life goes back to normal - and you can brag on your purchases to your friends and family.
Or after you’ve discovered the flash sale, placed your order, and texted a friend to let them know about the sale.
Ultimately, we aren’t cash machines. We aren’t solely motivated by saving pennies here and there.
We’re motivated by winning. We’re motivated by helping others win, too. We’re motivated by finding success, but even more motivated by sharing that success with our friends and family.
There’s a thrill to Black Friday shopping, and there’s freedom in landing a good deal that allows you to “save” and “shop” at the same time. But there’s nothing better than retelling the story of “that crazy deal I found on a TV one Christmas” every year around the...brand-new TV.
The Mysterious Magnetism of a Sale - Solved.
Now you know why those “24-hour-sale” deals are so compelling, why coupons are addicting, and why you’ve opened accounts on half a dozen couponing apps and websites.
It’s because saving money on a deal feels like freedom - freedom to succeed now, and freedom to save for the future. And it’s because sales and coupons are fun to share with family and friends, whether it’s retelling the story of fighting the crowds on Black Friday or texting a friend about a limited-time offer you stumbled upon.
So there’s only one question left:
When’s the next time you’re going out for a shopping-and-couponing day with your friends?