Sure, everyone's watching their spending -- but in some areas, women in particular are blowing it. "There is some dangerous impulse buying going on, and it's being driven by fear, and our obsession with buying bargains," says Kit Yarrow, professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University. She says we overindulge at warehouse clubs, outlets ... and, most predominantly, here:
"People are just buying stuff for the label even though what's on sale may just be slow-selling merchandise, irregulars, liquidation of a previous season, overstock, or items that buyers didn't want," says Kathryn Finney, author of "How To Be a Budget Fashionista: The Ultimate Guide to Looking Fabulous for Less." "You're better off paying full-price for something you'll wear all the time than half price for something you'll wear once, or not at all."
Online Flash Sales
Limited-time sales (of typically 24-72 hours) offered by popular websites such as HauteLook, Gilt, and RueLaLa, offer options for those who don't live in sample sale hubs -- New York or Los Angeles, for example. But this relatively new way of shopping -- where merchandise from a hot designer can sell out in minutes -- also represents one of the most addictive, dangerous and irrational ways to shop, says Yarrow. "It's a psychological assault where you're up against the clock, pressured to make a purchase, and that big 'sold out' button creates this sense of fear as does the limited selection. No one wants to miss out."
"It's the same thing as the sample sale but with a different twist," says Yarrow. "There may not be as much immediacy, but all these 'specials' have been brought into your field of vision -- it used to be you went into a store and saw what you could get for 20% off; now that 20% off is coming to you." The result? On sites such as groupon.com, livingsocial.com and other social buying websites, we end up snagging things we never thought we wanted, from horse back riding lessons to harbor tours and more. "All those things we had always been comfortable living without we suddenly want."
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Beyond spent: The ways women buy dangerously on impulse