The season of spending

Advertisers are experts at getting us to shop, so warn your kids about their wily ways.

With the start of Chanukah just a week away and less than a month to go until Christmas, the seasonal marketing machine is at a near frenzy. Retailers often rely on sales activity in this critical pre-holiday period to turn a profit, so they’re pulling out all the stops in their attempts to get you to part with your money.

As this Money magazine article describes, advertisers will tap into our deepest emotions, play on our desire to fit in, gloss over cost and make us laugh — all to convince us to buy. It’s a sophisticated business that even the most diligent of shoppers can fall prey to. So is it any wonder our children are easily swayed, as well?

While I’m careful not to be a Scrooge about it, I’ve tried to talk to my son about some of the tricks used by advertisers and retailers whenever I see the opportunity present itself. For instance, he recently mentioned that a game he wanted cost “only $20” — but the price was actually $29.99; 50 per cent more than $20! I took the time to explain that it’s human nature to focus on that first digit and ignore the rest, which is why retailers tend to price items this way.

We’ve also discussed how superlatives such as “best” or “tastiest” are subjective, so whenever claims like these are made about products it’s best to take them with a grain of salt. And, because he’s a technophile, he also knows that Facebook “likes” (and other social media approvals or comments) can be purchased or curated, so they can’t always be trusted, either.

Are these conversations going to immunize him from the lure of clever marketing? I’m not so naïve to think so. (Heck, I’m susceptible to seasonal campaigns, myself. Swiss Chalet festive special, anyone?) But I do believe it will help him learn how to think more critically before spending his money, which can only be a good thing.


Have your kids been persuaded by a great ad? What was it for?


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Tamar Satov

Managing Editor, CPA magazine
Tamar is a journalist specializing in business, parenting and personal finance. She blogs regularly in this space with advice and anecdotes on her efforts to raise a money-smart kid.