We have great intentions when we create our holiday shopping plan of attack. Maybe you’re the type who hits the stores armed with flyers, coupons, apps and lists. Or maybe you’re the type to just hit the malls (and online stores) and marathon shop till you drop. Either way, you could be blowing your holiday budget without even realizing it. Many of us have bad habits when it comes to shopping, especially when it comes to what we see as great “deals.”
Here are some bad habits to cross off your list, so the ghost of holiday shopping past doesn’t haunt you come January:
Being a naughty spender by treating yourself to something nice. Everyone likes to treat herself once in a while, and what better time than when you’re surrounded by beautiful decorations and cheerful holiday tunes? But what happens when you see something cute in the next store? Or a deal too good to pass up online? Before you know it, you have several gifts for yourself, and nothing for those on your list.
This year: When you spot something you’d like to have, snap a picture of it, and add it to your wish list. If you don’t do wish lists, you can always drop a hint or two around your spouse, sibling or best friend, all of whom will be grateful for an idea of what they can get you.
Feeling guilty about the deal you scored. If you plan to spend $25 on a doll for your niece, but find one on sale for $15, what do you do? The old you would probably look for something else in the $10 range to make sure you’ve “spent enough.” And if you’re really generous, you’ll find something for a few bucks more, and decide, “what the heck… it’s only once a year.” Before you know it, instead of saving $10, you have spent beyond your budget.
This year: Take the deal and walk away. Your niece will still be thrilled when she gets the doll she wanted, and no one will be the wiser that you scored it at a terrific price. Besides, the savings will help cover “hidden” costs like wrapping and shipping.
Focusing more on dollar amounts than the thought behind a gift. ‘Fess up – do you ever give up on a great gift idea because you’re afraid it might come across as cheap? Especially with little kids, it’s often the less expensive, simple toys that they go crazy over vs. the overpriced, deluxe, walking-talking-must-have-toy-of-the-year.
This year: Give from the heart. Putting real feelings behind a present means more than spending a fortune on some trinket. For instance, one year we gave my mother-in-law a lovely Pandora necklace. Another year, we created a customized photo book with captioned pictures of her children and grandchildren through the years. Which one do you think cost more? Which do you think she raved about?
Falling for all the gimmicks. We’ve all added extra items to the online shopping cart to qualify for free shipping, or picked up something near the counter to qualify for an additional discount. Promotions can be great, but you have to do the math and think through the purchase before you succumb to pressure (like the cranky people lined up behind you, or the midnight deadline for free shipping). We also worry that we’ll miss the “last chance” sale, or rush to the cashier before the “doorbuster” time expires.
This year: Slow down. Another sale is always on the horizon. Make it a rule that you won’t buy anything on impulse unless it makes total financial sense (whip out your phone calculator to crunch the numbers!). And, if you do pick up an additional item because it’s “buy one get one half off,” be sure you actually have someone else on your list who will love that item.
Being “guilted” into spending. You might decide to bow out of the office gift swap. Someone gives you a gift and you feel you have to reciprocate. But all these surprise purchases can add up. Many just follow the crowd, or don’t want to feel guilty if they don’t offer a gift or include themeselves in an office tradition.
This year: Say “No thanks. My budget is limited and I have other obligations.” Or say something else that feels right to you. But don’t apologize for staying within your budget. Let them talk if they need to talk – it’s not your job to meet their standards. You might be the one to break everyone’s spending cycle.