Don't Fall for Time-Limited Deals

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There's nothing like a time limit to propel consumers into buying a product, right? This limited-time offer is the best one you'll ever get, and you'll really regret waiting if you wait now. We'd do well to pass those marketing tricks by, though, especially if we'd like our prices to stay low.

Economists in the U.K. and Australia have just published a study about this very phenomenon, and they've come up with some surprising results. First, the less time you're offered to think about an offer, the less likely you are to close that sale and buy the item. But big picture, it turns out that time-limited sales can actually drive up consumer costs, because it limits our ability to comparison-shop and check prices.

"Examples include the doorstep seller who claims that they are currently 'in the area' but will not be returning; the telephone seller who makes a 'special offer' that can be accepted only during that phone call; the internet site that offers a buy-now discount; and the seller of a used car who claims that another buyer has shown great interest in it and will be returning shortly," according to the research team.

This provides all the more impetus to do your research before you go shopping, if you have the chance. We tend to make our best decisions under a pretty specific set of circumstances, and there are whole industries devoted to short-circuiting that. One quick trick for consumers? Don't shop hungry — your body and your wallet will thank you once it's done.