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12 mental traps that lead us to spend more money

12 mental traps that lead us to spend more money

June 23, 2022

We live in the consumer society. We are continually buying things : we launch to the offers, we renew clothes every time, we obsess with the new model of a mobile, we look for packs and limited editions of our favorite products, we buy new systems and elements of entertainment ... and often we do not realize what what we spend and how we do it on things we did not really need. And sometimes, later, we regret it. Why do we do it? What moves us to excessive spending?

In this article we are going to review a series of mental traps that lead us to spend more money , often favored by the marketing departments of companies.


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Different mental traps that make us spend more

There are many mental traps that exist to make us spend more. These traps, which we often self-provoke, are exploited by the different advertising strategies of large brands and commercial surfaces. Others, however, do not need to be used: we carry them out ourselves without anyone trying to attract our attention. Next we will see a few of the different mental traps in which the majority of people usually fall.

1. Feeling of reciprocity

The interaction between buyer and seller , especially when this makes a supposed concession and / or emotionality is used as an element of persuasion, it makes it possible to generate the sensation of needing to correspond to said interaction with a greater expense. It is a very used element in the commercial sector when there is a face-to-face interaction. The idea is to assume that what the other person does is try to advise us as a friend. In this way, the mercantilist background of the interaction takes second place.


2. Desire to be coherent

Another element frequently used by the commercial sector is the desire on the part of most people to be consistent with their previous opinions and actions. This type of mental trap is what makes us be faithful to a brand despite the existence of other alternatives of equal or greater quality and cheaper. It is also used to sell something at a general level for the person to accept and then tell the small print (something that many people end up giving only because they have already positively predisposed and not to generate a distortion with their previous opinion).

3. The bias of omnipresent optimism

Being an optimist is positive in many aspects and helps us to face the world with enthusiasm. However, it can lead us to underestimate the risks. This will mean that in extreme cases the need or economic capacity is not adequately assessed and lead us to spend more money in a more impulsive and less reflective way .


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4. Celebrations and events

It is usual that at great parties and special moments like Christmas we tend to spend more. It is a time when we consider that we can afford to make extra expenses and sometimes these expenses exceed the limits of what we had planned. This also extends to days created and prepared by brands and commercial surfaces to stimulate mass consumption , like the sales or Black Friday.

5. Shopping as a way to escape

Many people resort to shopping as a way to distract themselves and forget their problems, without needing or pretending to actually buy something. As well can serve as a way to increase self-esteem in people who have it low , tried to improve their self-perception through the purchase (either by the fact of being well looked after by the dependents or by buying something that makes them feel better, like clothes). Although it is something that can occupy free time, the truth is that it can lead to large outlays and in some cases can even become compulsive and pathological.

6. Limited availability

That something is apparently temporary and restricted draws attention and facilitates the expense, since otherwise it would be missing an opportunity that may not happen again. It is a frequent commercial strategy to generate a sense of urgency and push the immediate and not very thoughtful purchase. Is a resource used in products of any type , from food to clothing through any type of instrument or tool.

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7. Offers and bargains

Second unit at half price! This and other offerings are some of the elements and ways to facilitate the most common purchase in various products, often also as a way to compete with other brands.The fact of being able to take a free unit, receive something extra with your purchase or make a second unit cheaper makes us think about buying and spending money on something that, perhaps, we did not need nor were looking for.

8. The halo effect

The halo effect is an effect that assumes that in the presence of a positive characteristic in a person, we tend to consider that their other qualities will also be positive. For example, if someone is attractive, they tend to be considered a better person What if it is not? This effect is generally used to talk about how we value other people, but it is also applicable to products and is used when presenting the product or in advertising campaigns.

9. Use of credit card

Different studies have shown that, as a rule, we tend to spend much more using the credit card than if we have to pay in cash. The fact of paying in cash forces us to see the amount we get and contrast it with the one we have on top. However, when using the card the same thing does not happen: we simply pass it and type in the PIN. This makes it easier for us to spend more, the payment is made in a less obvious way for our conscience .

10. Mental accounting

Having a good accounting taking into account what we earn and what we spend is fundamental to have our money organized and keep our expenses under control. But in turn, it means that we do not have possible extras, and that we do not know exactly what to do with them. And it is that the origin of money and the expectation that we have of it will make us value it in a different way.

Imagine that we are 20 € on the street, or that someone gives us money that we did not have: not having it planned, we will not have the same level of desire for conservation that would generate a money we have earned working. So, it can generate that we tend to spend it on whims in an uncontrolled way and unreflective.

11. Fashion and trends

Being fashionable is another of the small mental traps that push us to spend more money than we should. The need to feel appreciated and admired , to be up to date and not be left behind or to maintain a sense of belonging to our social group may be some of the reasons behind it.

If our idol and example to follow is a certain brand of clothing or cologne, or if it is fashionable to wear a suit of blue oil, it is much easier to spend money on these items even if we do not really need the product. We do not want to stay behind, and that can push some people to buy something to be fashionable.

12. Favorable currency

An aspect that also leads us to spend much more money than we would generally do is only when we travel to other countries that do not have the same currency as us, especially when the local currency has less value than our own.

Generally we do not have in mind the exact change, but if the idea that the value of our currency in greater. This supposes to think that we have more purchasing power , which in turn makes us more easily access to spend more money by not being very clear about the exact value of the money and assuming that what we buy will be relatively inexpensive. Thus, we buy more than we would normally do. On the contrary, a country in which our currency has less value than the local one will make us tend to control more how much we spend.

Bibliographic references

  • Cialdini, R. (1983, 1984). Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion. Revised Edition. HarperCollins.
  • McGuire, W.J. (1969). An information-processing model of advertising effectiveness. In H.L. Davis & A.J. Silk (Eds.), Behavioral and Management Sciences in Marketing. New York: Ronald.
  • Thaler, R.H. & Sunstein, C.R. (2008). Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Yale University Press.
  • Wertenbroch, K .; Soma, D. & Chattopadhyay, A. (2007). On the perceiver value of money: the reference dependence of currency numbers effects. Journal of Consumer Research, 34.

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