lifestyle · Money · Tips and advice · Uncategorized

There’s no such thing as free money. Why Discount Codes and Store Cash and Point Schemes are a Money Making Marketing Trap.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “there’s no such thing as free money”, and I am sure you are rolling your eyes at reading such a cliché so soon into a post. But it’s true, nothing is EVER free. As I spoke about before when I discussed free shipping, everything a store “rewards” you only serves to persuade you to buy more. Let’s take a little look at the popular ways stores encourage you to spend more by convincing you that you are saving.

Discount Codes

Ah my old favourite. Pretty much every time I shop online I feverishly search for codes to bring my total down. 10% for signing up for an email? LOVE IT. 15% for handing over some personal details for the newsletter so I don’t miss a thing. OMG here’s everything you need to know about me, please email me daily about your once in a lifetime sales. Sure, it’s great to get money off your order and I completely recommend scouring the coupon sites to get a deal on your item, but remember that you are selling your soul (or at least your willpower) to the devil and you need to be prepared for him when he comes to collect. Many stores offer money off in return for signing up for their emails which seems harmless enough as you’re happily collecting 15% off those $100 sneakers. However, retail emails are like herpes. They keep on coming back. It starts with one email thanking you for your purchase and offering you 20% off your next. “wow! how polite and what wonderful customer service!” you think as you quickly open up the stores website and add that item you had your eye on before. Bingo, you’ve made a purchase you don’t need and now you’re fanning the fire. A few days go by and another email pops up offering another deal. Your interest piqued and again you find yourself on the website but ultimately leave the items in your cart. Wow look at that will power, good work. But the online store doesn’t like that, that is not how this is meant to work. Ping, another email “you left me behind! This item is hot and selling fast”. A bead of sweat forms on your brow, your fingers twitch. Did you make a TERRIBLE decision? Are you missing out on a deal on the hottest item? Will you regret it forever if you let this deal pass? You head back over to the website and in a panic you buy your cart. Phew, crisis averted, you have that item being packed up and on its way to you. It was a good deal after all, and it is a very much in demand item. What a clever savvy shopper you are! But are you? Think about it, for that 10% off you have now bought way more than you needed and the store keeps on dragging you back in (how Godfatherlike) no matter how hard you try to leave. The emails keep coming and the loop keeps repeating. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go ahead and use codes, but for your own wallet’s sake, unsubscribe from emails the second after your purchase is complete. The latest way stores are preying on your impulses are text notifications. I kid you not, I just got an alert on my watch as I type this. With the advent of smartwatches, stores have a way to remind us of things we don’t want or need by pinging our wrists. It’s weird really to think that we are tethered to their marketing ploys so closely. Do yourself a favour and just unsubscribe.

Photo by Tim Samuel on

Store Cash

Store cash time is my favourite (or used to be). You get a cute little slip of paper that looks like money to put towards your purchase. What’s not cute is how much damage you can do with that little slip of paper.
Psychologically, if they offer $10 off $25, then you think – oh it’s half price, If I spend $300 I’ll get everything for $150! However, simple math doesn’t work that way. Sure, it might be $10 off $25 but then it’s $30 off $75, $50 off $125 and so on and so forth which is about 40% depending on how much you spend but it isn’t half price and this small difference keeps you adding items to your cart and your total wracking up. These sneaky totals also persuade you to push your spend up into the next bracket. For example, if you’re at $74.99 you’re only going to get $20, if you add a little more to your cart you get $30 off so you put that tank top in that you don’t want or need just to bring the total up. Before you know it you’ve blown your budget and your closet becomes ever more full of useless items that always end up in the donation pile. So how can you make store cash work for you? This is easier said than done, but you don’t HAVE to use it. You’re not losing money by throwing that piece of paper promising free money away. If you have something in mind, then be firm with yourself, wait until the store cash comes into effect and buy that item and only that item. Also remember that during store cash times items that are usually deeply discounted are jacked up in price so that deal is not actually that great.

Points Programs

Points programs are a bit of a double edged sword. On one hand, they are free money if used effectively. On the other hand, they do nothing more than promote you to fill your closet and life with more crap that you don’t need, or at least didn’t think you needed until that little marketing email pops up in your email reminding you about your points. Some point programs are great, they never expire and you can store the points until you have enough saved to buy something you really want. Grocery stores usually have programs like this. The ones that you need to look out for are the point programs that expire. This leads to impulse buying by playing on FOMO. I just got an email from a clothing brand that informed me that my $15 reward was expiring and I had to use it or lose it. I’ll admit it caught my eye and I felt concerned that I was giving up my $15. However, I know that once I go on the website I will spend much more than $15 (thank you free shipping min spend and my lack of self control). That is exactly what these sneaky stores are banking on. Rarely will you just buy one thing due to rational thinking going out of the window and being replaced by the, “well, I got the tank top for free with points so maybe I can pick up jeans to go with it”. It’s a dangerous gateway into overspending that you need to be wary of.

So there you have it, a basic run down of the sneaky ways stores get you to spend more by “saving”. Have a go at unsubscribing from emails (I did 25 yesterday!) and throwing away that store cash and see if your wallet thanks you!


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