Afraid of missing out on a purchase? Be savvy to the advertising techniques that get you to spend

Imagine yourself walking into a store, any store: The products are likely displayed in a beautiful array, near the front windows; there are sales people scattered around to help you with anything you need; and there are bright advertisements hanging from the ceilings, pasted on the walls, on stands near the checkout, that scream, “Sale!” “Limited time only!” and “Only a few left in stock!” Are these bright notices just space-fillers to capture your attention, or do they have a more crafty purpose?

I recently read an article in Shopify that discussed all the tactics a company will use to trigger a shopping binge in a customer. Though the intended audience of this piece was business and marketing people, I thought there was a lot we could learn from what people in the industry had to say so we could become more wise and savvy to realizing these advertising tricks.

When you see those signs hanging in a store—the “Sale!” “Limited time only!” and “Only a few left in stock!” ones—the company is playing off of a shopper’s fear of missing out. Create the illusion that the product is scarce and a person is more likely to purchase it. The same thing operates on the internet, where companies will have count-down tickers that can be very persuasive in getting you to add that item to your shopping cart. After all, if a person goes home or logs off to “think about it,” he or she runs the risk of coming back to find it already being taken, right?

Not necessarily. Though the writers of this article urge companies to use these scarcity illusion tactics responsibility, we know all too well that many—if not most—companies will actually utilize these tricks on a daily basis.

Don’t get caught in the trap; make sure you know what to look for. Here are the ads and sales that should immediately make you suspicious:

  • Limited time offers
  • Limited quantity
  • Limited quantity/limited price
  • Flash sales
  • Product page countdown timers
  • Timed shopping offers
  • Copywriting tactics, such as “Going fast!”

If you want additional help, or feel like you really need someone to talk you down from a potential buying binge, consider our very affordable personalized text messaging program. You get targeted texts every day and can also access the program 24/7 for immediate help. It’s another line of defense, as you’ll receive texts that are informational, directive, benefit-oriented, motivational, and inspiration, all the while training you to become a more mindful shopper.

If you would like to read this article in full, you can do so here, and remember: Being a savvy shopper is the first step to being a healthy shopper. Be suspicious, and don’t let the fear of missing out cloud your shopping judgement.

By Carrie Rattle

Carrie Rattle is a Principal at, a website for women focused on mind and money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence. Read More