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Season of Spending

“Gotta hurry to the sale!”

No, you don’t. Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) may cause you to feel a sense of urgency, a need to immediately respond to the “BIG SALE!” as you prepare for the holidays. But if my email inbox is any indication, there will be another one tomorrow (and the next day, and the next…).
“Limited time only!” “Act Now!”

There’s no need to rush into anything. Don’t let the stress of trying to score that deal, that you think will give you the holiday you want, overshadow common sense.

While your wallet may benefit from spreading out your purchases over several pay periods, recent surveys have shown that the earlier you begin shopping, the more likely you are to spend more!

In an article about inflation’s impact on the holiday season, a study was referenced that found that “people who start their shopping on or after Thanksgiving tend to spend less overall.” And I’ve been blaming procrastination for causing me to be behind all these years. (I once had a co-worker who was so elated that she had completed all her Christmas shopping before Halloween. I was excited that there were pumpkins on my porch… even if they weren’t carved.)

There were a few times in years’ past when I tried to start shopping earlier in the season, and I still got pulled into the retailers’ marketing messages. The end result? I ended up buying “just one more thing.” Or I found something that I thought would make a better gift but never got around to returning the gift I bought in the first place.

Another popular way shoppers are spreading out the cost of their purchases is by clicking on the “Buy Now, Pay Later” (BNPL) option available on many websites. This feature allows the buyer to make a purchase, receive the item right away, and pay for it in installments. It is easy to use, and since it doesn’t require a credit card, it can feel like you’re being more responsible. And I mean, why wouldn’t it? You’re not building debt, and there’s often no interest charged.
But like most things in life, too much of a good thing has drawbacks. The psychology behind the easy-to-use BNPL option may encourage overspending. And you’ll want to be mindful of any service or late fees that may be assessed. Additionally, BNPL options help retailers gather even more detailed information about you and your purchasing behavior (likely resulting in more “hurry to the sale” emails in your inbox).

If you appreciate the added protection that comes with a credit card, there’s no need to feel guilty about using plastic. You can still plan your credit card purchases so you don’t overspend. One way to be practical with your credit card usage is to set aside some money from several paychecks to have it ready when the bill comes. Or strategically time your purchases so that they aren’t all on one bill. Find your billing statement end date and split your purchases over two billing cycles.
If it works for you, using cash for smaller purchases will help avoid adding to your credit card balance. And while it may seem impossible to even consider right now, think about opening a separate savings account that’s not linked to your debit card. Nickname it “Christmas” or “Gifts” or something that will cause you to pause before withdrawing money. You can even set up recurring transfers! Even the smallest amount can help slowly build your savings so that you have more cash on hand next holiday season.

There are so many ways that retailers make it easy to buy. There are also many different types of shoppers. It’s helpful to know yourself well enough to play to your strengths and avoid the triggers that play to your weaknesses. Being mindful of your style allows you to manage your time, money, and energy the most efficiently. It also allows you to be wary of the next retailer’s “Last Chance” message.

If you’re a bargain hunter, you may need to devote more time to shopping around and finding the best deal. If you’re an impulse buyer, it may be best to avoid shopping at all costs until after Thanksgiving!

Perhaps you’re the ultimate planner and have made a list of exactly what you intend to buy and plan to stick to the list. Kudos to you! Except, you may find that the perfect item is no longer available (supply chain issues, etc.). Flexibility will help you keep stress at bay.

There’s no doubt that increased costs due to our current economic situation may wreak havoc with your holiday spending plans. Are there areas that you are willing to adjust with minimal disappointment? Talk with your family about giving/expecting fewer gifts or sticking to a smaller budget. If you have young children, it’s easier to buy lots of gifts of lesser value and still enjoy the excitement of ripping off the gift wrap and opening the packages! With older kiddos, you may agree to a higher budget for one special gift rather than a larger quantity of less expensive items.

Pause and reflect whether having the most elegantly set table brings you a feeling of Zen, or if trying to achieve a magazine-worthy dining experience causes you significant angst. Are you good with the fancy-coated decorative paper plates and festive napkins? What’s important to you? Prioritize that.

Focus your energy and look for cost-effective ways to achieve your goal. If there’s time, money and energy left to spare, then consider what’s important to others. Just don’t start there. (Yes, your relatives will eventually get over the fact that they weren’t given cloth napkins.)

Ease some of your holiday stress about finding the perfect gifts, preparing the perfect meals, and staying within your budget by slowing down and considering what brings the most value to you. Managing your expectations will help you enjoy the season more and stress less.

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