Based on my own experience, I have identified several psychological factors that convince people to pay too much for clothing. You might think that the blame for your excessive spending on trendy clothes can be placed on the retail stores that price the clothes too high. But no, the real blame lies with self-deception that occurs inside your own brain. Here’s what I mean:
Imagine that you are in a department store. You intend to buy a nice dress shirt, which should be no problem in the large, upscale store you have selected. You tell yourself, “I need a new article of clothing to wear to work, but I do not want to pay more than this article is worth.” Then you see a rather attractive shirt on a hanger. You look at the price tag and realize the shirt costs more than you planned on spending. Now one of three things happens, any one of which will result in you buying the over-priced shirt:
1. Invalid Comparison. You continue browsing and find several less attractive shirts that cost about the same as the first shirt you saw. So you convince yourself that all shirts cost this much and that the nicer shirt is, therefore, a bargain (i.e., a nicer shirt at the same price as all other shirts). You neglect the fact that shirts are cheaper at other stores, and that this very shirt might be for sale cheaper on the internet or in another department store.
2. Self Reward. You look at the shirt in much the same way you would look at a bowl of ice cream. “I worked hard this week,” you think to yourself. “I am going to pay a lot for this article of clothing because I deserve a reward.” And then you buy it. You do not stop to think that squandering one’s own money is more of a self-punishment than a self-reward.
3. Bogus Valuation. You start to wonder why the shirt costs so much. If it costs a lot, it must be worth a lot, right? After all, you have heard that this particular brand of shirt lasts a long time. It might last twice as long as a slightly lower priced shirt. When you consider the amazing value of this superstar shirt, the exorbitant price does not seem too bad, after all. So you buy it. You do not stop to think that you might spill tomato juice on it the next morning at breakfast. Nor do you consider that your beliefs about the shirt’s extraordinary features are speculative and not based in fact.
How do you guard against these three forms of self-deception? Self discipline is difficult. The key in shopping is to set an absolute limit on the price you will pay for an item before you enter the store, and do not allow yourself to violate that limit no matter what. This can be a difficult discipline to master, but it is worthwhile. Just think how much more stuff you can buy with the money that you save!