color influences your spending habits

Throughout my time writing here for Saving Advice, I’ve frequently mentioned the relationship between psychology and money. It shows up in our lives in so many different ways. One important thing I haven’t discussed before, though, is that marketers know this, too. They know that they can impact the choices that we make with our money by tapping in to our psychology. There are a lot of different ways that they do this. It’s a fascinating field, really. But for today let’s limit the conversation to just one specific area: color. Are you aware that color influences your spending habits?

Marketing Majors Take Classes in Color Psychology

The people who are trying to sell things to you are highly aware of the many different ways that they can impact your decision-making process. In fact, did you know that many marketing majors take classes to learn how color influences your spending habits? They also learn about other visual impacts, sounds, scents, store layouts and so much more. (Want to know where this type of psychology has been utilized particularly well? In the design of casinos.) Enter the digital age, and marketers have learned how to apply this information to creating the online experience most likely to get you to hit that purchase button.

Color Impacts Mood and Behavior

So, yes, you could say that they’re manipulating you. However, it’s also science. Color impacts our mood and behavior. If you’ve never studied color psychology, then it’s well worth it. Why? Well, let’s say that you’re repainting a room in your home. The right color and shade could greatly impact whether that room is more likely to give you feelings of joy or feelings of stress. And, of course, if you can learn how color influences your spending habits, then you can counteract marketing’s impact.

How Color Influences Your Spending Habits

Basically, each color evokes a certain set of moods and reactions in the majority of people. Of course, there are exceptions. Everyone is individual. Therefore, even those most people might associate a certain shade of red with anger, you might associate it with passion. Moreover, as Neil Patel points out, the psychology of color is different among people from different cultural backgrounds. Therefore, color psychology isn’t a one size fits all theory. However, there are some things are basically true for most people.

Despite Some Common Themes, Color Psychology Is Complicated

It’s important to understand that how color influences your spending habits is also very complex. There’s super basic color theory. In other words, red often creates a sense of urgency that encourages impulse purchases. In contrast, blue is usually calming. However, blue is also associated with trust, so you might choose blue branding over another brand. That’s at the basic level.

Then there’s the more nuanced and complex level. Because, of course, there are different shades of every color. Think of how many shades of blue you see in a single day all around you. They don’t all evoke the same emotion. Some shades of blue are associated with tranquility while others evoke sadness. In turn, each of those emotions provokes a different buying response. So remember that as we cover some of the basics below about how color influences your spending habits.

And Then There’s Mixing Colors to Impact Spending

Insights in Marketing points out something really interesting. Red is generally associated with an urgency to buy. Yellow, on the other hand, is about joy and optimism. So, if you combine red and yellow in your marketing, then you get an interesting reaction. People feel joyful and optimistic about the item that they feel compelled to purchase. Item colors, plus the combination of item colors, can greatly impact the story we create in our minds about our purchases.

The Most Common Ways Each Color Influences Your Spending Habits

Keeping the above in mind, here’s what the research says about some of the most common colors used in marketing to impact your spending:

How Red Influences Your Spending

Red is one of the most complicated colors in terms of spending impact.

  • Real Simple says it often serves as a stop sign and tells us not to buy something.
  • However, they also note that the particular red shade burgundy is associated with luxury. Therefore, we might spend more on an item in that color.
  • Moreover, Neil Patel and many others argue against the stop sign theory. Red tends to increase our heart rates. Therefore, we feel a sense of urgency and might buy quickly. Lots of “last chance” and “clearance” signs are red for this reason.

How Blue Influences Your Spending

  • Real Simple, and many others, report that blue is the color most often associated with trust. Therefore, it creates brand loyalty among shoppers.
  • Neil Patel adds on to that, noting that banks and businesses that seek your trust will often use blue in their logos.
  • Patel explains that different colors, and different shades of colors, attract different types of consumers. Royal blue, for example, tends to attract impulse shoppers. In contrast, navy blue and teal both attract budget shoppers. And sky blue attracts more “traditional shoppers.”
  • Insights in Marketing adds that if a package contains white and green in addition to blue, then it heightens the sense of trust in the brand. Similarly, adding black and green to blue increases security – a feeling similar to but slightly different from trust. If you’re buying something to protect your dog or kids, for example, the black, green and blue combination might attract your dollars.

How Yellow Influences Your Spending

  • According to Real Simple, yellow stimulates the appetite. This energizes you and may make you especially want to spend more money on food products.
  • Neil Patel adds that yellow conveys youthfulness and optimism. Therefore, it’s used to sell happiness products. Moreover, it’s eye-catching, so it’s used in store windows to draw you in for spending.
  • Insights in Marketing notes that a combination of yellow with brown and orange usually indicates “cheapness” to people. If you want a bargain, you might be drawn to this. If you look for quality, this might repel you.

How Green Influences Your Spending

  • Real Simple points out that even if a green product isn’t eco-friendly, our minds associate it with nature.
  • Neil Patel reminds us that green isn’t just the color of nature but also the color of money. We may feel wealthy seeing green, and therefore we may spend more freely.
  • Additionally, Patel notes that biologically green is easy on the eyes compared to other colors. Therefore, it creates a sense of relaxation that makes it easier to linger in the store and shop.
  • Finally, Insights in Marketing reminds us that we think of green as “healthy.” Therefore, it’s often marketed not just for eco-friendly products but also health-conscious brands. Try to remember to look at the facts and not just the color when making these purchases.

How Orange Influences Your Spending

  • According to Real Simple, orange connotes “fairness and affordability.” Therefore, you’ll often find it in in sales aisles and discount stores.
  • Neil Patel phrases it differently, pointing out that we associate orange with a a bit of aggressiveness. For example, an orange construction cone catches our attention immediately. So, it could be for that reason that it works to draw our attention to sales and bargains.

How Pink Influences Your Spending

  • Real Simple explains the science behind how pink creates calmness in the body. They argue this may make it feel less painful to part with your money. 
  • And of course, as Patel and others point out, pink continues to have an association with femininity. Therefore, it’s used for marketing to those who identify as female.

How Purple Influences Your Spending

  • According to Real Simple, we might spend more on purple items because we associate them with royalty and luxury.
  • Additionally, both Real Simple and Neil Patel note that purple is commonly associated with anti-aging products. So, notice next time if you’re purchasing a specific beauty product just because of its purpose packaging.

How Brown Influences Your Spending

  • Real Simple says brown is associated with luxury. For example, you might spend more on a brown comforter than a white one.

How Black Influences Your Spending

  • Real Simple and others agree that we associate black with sophistication. So if we’re needing to feel fancy, we gravitate towards black. Make-up is often in black packaging, as is jewelry.
  • Neil Patel also notes that black is a power color. It’s used to market luxury items such as high-end cars.
  • Interestingly, Patel lists black as one of the colors (along with red, orange, and royal blue) that attracts impulse shoppers.

How White Influences Your Spending

  • According to Real Simple, white means modern and chic. If you’re an Apple fan, perhaps this is why.
  • Additionally, they note that it’s associated with purity. So, if you find yourself drifting towards skin care brands in white packaging, that could be why.

How To Reduce The Impact of Color On Spending

You’ve already done the first part; you’ve educated yourself about how each color influences your spending habits. Keep educating yourself. The more aware that you are, the less likely you are to let this influence your purchases. Here are some other tips:

  • Never make an impulse buy. Always pause and ask yourself why you’re making the purchase.
  • Before making a buying decision, look at the color. Imagine the same item in another color. Would you still purchase it even if it had the same function?
  • Figure out your own color story. What colors make you feel good? Keep that in mind when making purchases, particularly items you’ll see often in the home or office. They’ll likely continue making you feel good long after the sale is done.
  • When you do make a purchase you regret or don’t love, look closely at it. This will help you better understand how color influences your spending habits.
  • Eat well, rest enough, and gather your energy before shopping. You’ll make better decisions this way all around.

Scents, sounds, and so many other factors also impact our spending online and offline. The more you pay attention to your reasons for making purchases, the smarter those purchases will be. 

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