Inside: Learn how scarcity and trends influence people to spend more money. Once you understand these tactics you can more easily avoid them.

Do you find yourself spending more money than you’d like… but aren’t sure why you can’t reign it in? 

You aren’t alone. The temptation to buy, buy, buy is virtually everywhere. It can be a challenge to walk through a store or go online without feeling compelled to buy something. And with the quick tap of a card or click of a button it’s quick and easy to part with your money.

But why are we so tempted to buy things?

There are two big drivers behind the urge to spend more money. The first is scarcity – the idea that there is a limited amount of something so not everyone can have it. Additionally, trends play a major role in convincing people to spend more on things they don’t really need. 

Today, we’ll explore how scarcity and trends can influence people to spend more money – and how you can avoid that temptation. 

scarcity and trends influence people to spend more money

Understanding Scarcity: A Psychological Driver to Buy

The concept of scarcity has been around for millennia. Things that are scarce – from ancient spices and fabrics to more modern items like Stanley cups and reservations at that exclusive restaurant down the road – are perceived as more valuable.

If there isn’t enough of something to go around, people inherently want it more, and are often willing to pay a bigger premium to get it.

Back in the day, the things that were scarce were critical to survival – like food and water. People in the past felt a primal urge to secure these things because they had to if they wanted to live.

While some people still do battle with food scarcity in today’s world, the concept has extended to virtually everything. 

people crowding and shoving to get into a store

Manufactured scarcity

It’s not just our own perception of scarcity that drives us to buy. Instead, marketing companies have mastered the art of creating a perception of scarcity that can send shoppers into a frenzy.

Limited-time releases, once-in-a-lifetime offers, and exclusive drops create a sense of urgency to buy that can be incredibly hard to resist. When something is rare, people want it more – and some will go to great lengths to get their hands on it. 

For many, that desire to buy isn’t driven by fundamental needs but by our fear of missing out.

We don’t want to miss out on a good deal, so we need to take advantage of that sale before it’s too late.

We don’t want to miss out on owning that limited-release product, so we wait in line at stores for hours before they open to hopefully get our hands on one. 

And some are paying a premium to have other people shop for them. Live streaming shoppers have been cropping up at discount stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls looking for the next ‘it’ item.

Scarcity is a powerful, almost primal, driver to buy – and it’s a hard one to resist. 

Exploring Trends: Powerful Social Pressure to Spend

Unlike scarcity, trends are more about societal pressure than a perceived need for a product, service, or experience. One similarity? They rarely occur organically.

Trends are created by marketing companies, celebrities, and other cultural guideposts – without us even realizing it’s happening.

When we see people participating in a trend, we inherently feel pressure to go along with it, too. While some people are more interested in following trends than others, many feel at least some pull by trends to fit in and stay relevant.

And although this has been a reality for years, the rise of social media has made it even easier to know what’s trendy – and feel compelled to participate. 

Trends influence virtually every aspect of our lives. Popular diets like keto, brands endorsed by celebrities, and concepts like intermittent fasting can influence how we eat.

The outfits celebrities are photographed in on the red carpet and the styles social media influencers tell us are currently ‘in’ can influence what we wear – even if we don’t actually like those things.

When a new iPhone is released, we feel pressure to buy it so we can remain current and cool – even if the phone we own works fine. 

Similar to scarcity, trends can create an emotional pull to buy. Participating in the latest and greatest trends can promise us happiness, create a sense of nostalgia, or enhance our lifestyle – at least, that’s how we feel.

People want to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. They may not even realize that that’s what they’re trying to buy into when participating in a trend.

And despite our logical, rational side telling us we don’t have to give in to the temptation of trends, it’s often easier said than done. 

stop clutter cycle

Resisting Trends and Scarcity: Is It Possible?

The good news is you can resist the temptation to make impulse purchases driven by trends and scarcity tactics.

One way to do it? Embrace a minimalist lifestyle and mentality. When you truly believe that less is more and recognize the benefits of simplifying, you’ll be less compelled to cave into trends or perceive things as scarce.

While there’s no easy way to completely disengage from cultural influences, these tricks can help you push back against the constant ‘need’ to spend:

1. Shop with intention.

If you see something you want to buy, force yourself to wait at least a day or two and think about it before you spend.

By pausing before you pay, you’ll give yourself some time to process and figure out if it’s actually something you need – or if it’s just something that marketers and society have told you that you want.

Shopping with intention will help you save money and prevent clutter in your home.

2. Do your research.

Before giving in and buying something because it’s a trend or there’s a perception of scarcity, look into it first.

On a rare occasion, trendy or limited-release items can be quality and worth their money – but in most situations, they don’t have the features or functionality to back up their price tag, and you’ll be better off buying something else to fill that need.

Ask yourself these questions before making a purchase. Your answers will help guide your decision.

woman holding box of donations

3. Recognize that trends are cyclical.

Everything from fashion to food to vacation destinations to interior design trends happens in cycles. There’s always something trendy until there’s something else takes its place.

It’s more important to identify the value that something holds for you – instead of the value society has told you it should hold – when debating a purchase. This way, you’ll be happy with the things you own long after that trend has faded.

The water bottle of today is the Goodwill donation of tomorrow. If you’re always looking for the next ‘thing’ you’ll be disappointed as trends change constantly often with very little rhyme or reason.

For instance, the latest trend I’ve read about is the viral Trader Joe’s mini tote bag. While it looks like a perfectly functional bag, why this item is suddenly selling out in stores and reselling online for ridiculous amounts is beyond me.

Decide what you like for yourself. Don’t follow along just because other people have decided it’s the current ‘it’ thing.

scarcity and trends influence people to spend more money

4. Understand why you want to buy something.

A key to avoiding the ways scarcity and trends influence people to spend more money is simply understanding it.

Consider why you’re tempted to purchase something. Recognize your thought and behavior patterns when it comes to buying and recognize if you have a shopping problem.

What do you think your possessions say about you? Are you finding your identity in what you own? Are you able to easily distinguish between wants and needs?

Unraveling your relationship with stuff isn’t always easy, but it will help you to make lasting changes.

Be aware of the ways you’re being influenced. Unfollow and unsubscribe as needed. You can rewrite the narrative by intentionally shifting your perspective. You may discover numerous benefits to choosing to live more simply.

scarcity and trends influence people to spend more money

Helping kids navigate the influence of scarcity and trends

You may have already been aware of how scarcity and trends influence people to spend more money. But did you know that in recent years it’s impacted tweens and teens at a higher rate?

So how can you help limit the influence it has on your kids? Start by talking about it. Discuss the trends and how your identity isn’t found in what you do (or don’t) own. Have conversations about finances and empower your kids to begin budgeting at an early age.

Pay attention to what they’re watching and who they’re listening to. If they are on social media see what’s in their feed. Help them to create healthy boundaries.

Influencer culture is pervasive and scarcity tactics will continue to be used but by being informed you can outsmart them and refrain from buying things just because other people are.

Have you noticed how scarcity and trends influence people to spend more money? Share your perspective in the comments section below.

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5 Comments

  1. I have done in life and earned and saved a lot of money. I have always resisted buying things that I don’t need and have avoided impulse purchases. The latest trader joe bag is ridiculous. Why this goes on and on is beyond me. As an example of our society, I get junk mail. I am sure I get one pound of mail a day, from ads to solicitations for charity and political requests for money. All of it goes into the shredder. Non profits (?} can mail something for five cents. Even those outfits that worry about global warming and natural depletion do not think they are doing anything wrong by sending mail which is in itself a depletion of our natural assets. There are people who can never have enough.My mother used to say that she was going shopping and if she saw something she liked she would buy it. As a result the house filled with small purchases that could never be gotten rid of. I avoid yard sales, house sales, flea markets and on line browsing for shopping. We have a nice house, a small bit of clutter but generally it has not changed much over the decades.Quality items are to be cherished. Junk gets moved on to the next collector/

  2. Thank you,
    I bought a ham slice for Easter breakfast for 2. I did not buy the whole ham; leftovers would just get tossed in the freezer. The fresh ham slice is always available; no need to hoard a leftover ham.
    I am having eggs and pancakes with the ham slice with some tea and juice.
    Happy Easter!

  3. I want to simplify my life n live within my means but everytime there’s an exhibition in the city…I go just to see but end up buying stuff n. Then feel guilty.

  4. Jyoti, Go and enjoy your exhibition if it is fun for you! Try taking pictures of the items you love and skip buying it. Just a thought. ❤️
    Joyce

  5. In my opinion, it’s human nature to want to feel proud of oneself or to experience the thrill of getting a good deal. That’s why there’s a tendency to buy things that are considered trendy or expensive, unique in design and quality, and naturally, these will include elements of scarcity because of their uniqueness and high price. People also tend to purchase items that are discounted, I believe the psychological factor behind this purchasing behavior is reserved for those with moderate incomes. They have to budget their spending carefully, so any opportunity to save money is of interest to them for purchasing and stocking up for their regular activities for themselves and their families.

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