Choosing the Wrong Color Can Cost You Big on These Purchases

By Max Wong on 23 February 2015 0 comments

People generally chalk up color to personal preference when making a purchase, but what about those times when that choice can actually cost money? Strangely, I spend a lot of brain space thinking about the impact of color on my finances.

I'm typing this article from the comfort of my new coral pink yoga mat. Coral is one of my favorite colors. Also, I am way more excited than I should be about the fact that it looks like a giant stick of chewing gum.

Even though my yoga mat comes with a lifetime guarantee and I bought it at a 15% discount, it wasn't the best purchase I could have made. If I had been focusing on long-term savings rather than how I could add cinnamon fragrance to my mat for the ultimate Big Gum Workout Experience, I would have bought the black version of the same mat.

Here are some other ways color can affect your purchase.

1. Black Hides Dirt — and Requires Less Care

A black mat would hide a lot of dirt. By buying the coral mat, I've basically resigned myself to spending extra time, water, and money keeping my yoga mat clean… forever.

Who am I kidding? I know I'm going to be known by my fellow yogis as "that girl with the filthy pink mat."

I'm so grateful that I look good in black. Because otherwise I would be wearing some dingy looking clothes. As much as I fantasize about wearing white jeans, it's not going to happen. Just thinking about the cost of dry cleaning gives me hives.

By now most people have heard about the environmental damage and human misery caused by clothes manufacturing. What continues to go under-reported is the fact that the care and cleaning of clothing is actually more taxing to the environment than clothing production. How you clean your clothes and how often you have to clean your clothes can really make a difference to the planet. (See also: 11 Laundry Mistakes You Didn't Know You Were Making)

2. White Cars Roll Cooler — and More Visibly

Light colors are not without benefits. The Car of Torture I drove in high school was burgundy. During Arizona summers, a dark paint job turns an automobile into a furnace on wheels. Although I literally drove home from my summer job everyday wearing oven mitts (pro tip: don't touch a black steering wheel in 120 degree weather with your bare hands), I still have scorch marks on my back fat where I accidentally branded myself with the metal end of the seatbelt.

After the unrelenting sun exposure oxidized the burgundy paint job on my car, giving it a distinctly scabby look, my parents agreed to repaint the car white. The color change instantly lowered the interior temperature by 10 degrees.

As an adult living in Los Angeles, I only drive white cars. Although the smog keeps my white car looking disreputable at all times, it saves me money in two major ways.

First, who has right of way at a four way stop in Los Angeles? The driver of the crummiest car, obviously. A dirty white car saves me on fender benders because other cars give me wide berth.

All kidding aside, I drive a white car for visibility at night… to other drivers. My father, a retired head and neck surgeon, only drives yellow cars because he knows from years of treating accident victims that yellow cars are among the least likely to be passively involved in accidents. Most car buyers don't think about paint color as a safety feature, but the cost of buying the wrong color car could be your life.

Despite its connection to fire engines, red is actually a hard color to see, especially at night, when people's color vision is distorted. In fact, the common belief that drivers of red cars get more speeding tickets is an urban legend.

Secondly, the clear coat on my white car has also oxidized, but the damage is much less obvious than it would be on a darker color, and much easier to repair with Clay Bar detailing versus new paint.

Finally, in hot climates, light colored cars get better gas mileage, because they stay cooler without the use of air conditioning. While I love the look of leather seats, I can't look at a black car with a black leather interior and not think the driver doesn't have brain damage. Or, maybe those drivers are just really into pain and never wear shorts.

3. A White Roof Is Cheaper, Too

Dark colored cars aren't the only way people are wasting their air conditioning. I'm getting ready to paint my black asphalt tiled roof white to reflect heat and save energy. White roofs have been touted as a major way people could help slow global warming. However, repainting the roof is a big no for people who live in areas that have cold, dark winters because white roofs make homes harder to heat.

4. Color Is a Powerful Advertising Tool

Color is also a powerful tool for driving consumer purchasing. Just like my yoga mat purchase, 85% of shoppers place color as a primary reason why they buy a particular product.

In addition to aiding in brand recognition, an award-winning study in 2013 revealed that even the background color on a webpage influenced spending. Researchers discovered that shoppers were more likely to spend more money on an auction site like eBay after being exposed to a red background. However, the same shoppers were less likely to spend money on a fixed priced site after being exposed to red.

Men seem to be especially sensitive to red, even tipping red uniformed waitresses more money.

5. Some Colors Stimulant Appetite — and Spending

Red and yellow are also appetite stimulants, which is why just about every fast food chain uses those colors in everything from their logos to their décor. Cornell University psychology researchers discovered that plate color affects how much people eat. When researchers reduced the color contrast between food and the plate, study participants served themselves 22% less food. Just reducing the color contrast between the plate and the tablecloth reduced consumption by 10%!

Over the past decade well-meaning consumers have been snookered out of their hard earned cash by an increasing number of products pretending to be environmentally responsible. In addition to greenwashing, consumers now have to be on the lookout for pinkwashing. Caused-based shopping as charity is problematic because everyone from fracking companies to gun manufacturers have tried to clean their dirty karma (and carcinogenic products) under the guise of helping find a cure for breast cancer.

Luckily, pink isn't just used to defraud charitable shoppers. It's still used for good by medical professionals. Some researchers discovered that Baker-Miller Pink (AKA bubblegum pink) has a calming effect. Just looking at the color slows people's endocrine systems and loosens muscles.

Baker-Miller Pink. The perfect color for a yoga mat. I feel so vindicated.

Does color influence your spending decisions? What color will you pay more for?

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