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How to survive the emotional pressures of holiday buying
Holiday Spending

How to survive the emotional pressures of holiday buying

In this series, we explore the area of holiday spending. This week, Megan talks about the emotional pressures the holiday may bring and some ways to keep your bank account intact.

Ah the holidays, a time for merriment and cheer. Also, as it turns out, for many Americans a time of dread. According to a new study by Lending Tree, sixty-one percent of us dread the holidays due to spending. It is the season of giving, but in most cases, we feel pressured to give too much.

Parents particularly feel this pressure. They want Christmas morning to perfect for their kids, and in order to do so, they feel the need to meet a never-ending list of toy demands. But other generations are not immune. Whether it be buying for your friends and family, your pets, or even yourself, it can be hard to escape the clutches of retail during the holidays.

Companies capitalize on our emotions surrounding the holidays and use a sense of urgency to convince us to spend, spend, spend.

Companies and retailers are no fools when it comes to the season of shopping. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Travel Tuesday (is this really a thing now?) are all ploys to encourage us to spend more. They capitalize on our emotions surrounding the holidays and use a sense of urgency to convince us to spend, spend, spend.

Because there is a finite amount of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas day, stores will advertise sales and (supposedly) huge markdowns. In turn, we as consumers feel that we have to buy it now or else we will miss out on the deal. Additionally, it is a lot easier to reconcile a purchase when you got it for (again supposedly) such a great price!  

Besides instilling within us a sense of pressing need, retailers also rely on your associations with the season. Most people are generally happier this time of year and recall memories of joyful moments spent with those they love. These feelings can translate to becoming laxer with your budget and freely spending more. Brands turn very festive and count on nostalgia to entice you into adding just a few more items to your cart.

Nevertheless, we consumers aren’t unaware of what is happening to us as it isn’t exactly subversive, but we continue to pile items onto the checkout counter. When it is all said and done you may feel relieved, exhilarated, and happy, but these feelings are short-lived. By the time the box arrives at your doorstep, you may be questioning whether you really needed that cat sweater and if your sister really wanted a pooping pooches wall calendar (it’s a thing, look it up).

So really, the holiday season has become a time of mixed emotions. On one hand, Christmas is filled with childlike wonder and anticipation. No matter how old you are, we all still love getting gifts. Seeing storefronts covered in lights and lamp posts decorated with garland puts you in a cheery and festive mood!

But on the contrary, we are susceptible to feeling overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, and ultimately maybe a little guilty. So how do you find the perfect balance between “bah-humbug” and “buy all the things!”?  

First, budget and plan.

Seriously, sometimes I feel like budgeting is the answer to everything. When you have a plan of what you need (and want) to buy, as well as how much you are willing to spend, you will likely end up with a lot less buyer's remorse.

Create a shopping list of who you want to buy for and if you can, what you plan on purchasing for them. Then, look up the items or ones that are comparable so that you can get an idea of the price. Once you have done this for everyone on your list, total up all of the purchases.

Does this total jive with your budget? If not, the answer isn’t “but it's Christmas!”; you need to revise your list.

When you go out shopping, keep this budgeted list handy. It can be hard to get a good grasp on how much you are spending when you are sprinting from store to store on Black Friday. If at all possible, at least check prices with your estimated budget and if you can, enter in the actual price so you can watch your total accumulate.

This year, I decided not to physically go out for Black Friday. Instead, I did literally all of my shopping on Amazon in a period of about thirty minutes. Believe me, when you have twenty-six items in your Amazon cart all at once and the total is approaching the cost of your monthly rent, it is a real wake up call.

Seeing this number made me realize how much I was actually spending on the holidays. Those sales felt a little less urgent and the markdowns a bit less drastic. I re-evaluated my cart and did away with a few things.

Having another person review your cart (whether it be real-world or electronic) can help you reel in any unnecessary spending. Before you commit and press buy, grab a friend to take a look... as long as it won’t spoil any Christmas morning surprises!

Finally, find alternative methods of self-care.

On the weekends leading up to Christmas, retailers are all about the phrase “treat yo self”. They are certainly encouraging you to purchase their products, but maybe not in the way you think.

Getting a new fragrance for your BFF? Why not buy one for yourself at half off? Or, purchase $50 in merchandise and receive $10 in insert-giant-company-name-here! Before you know it, you have spent triple what you intended to.

Instead of treating yourself to items with a price tag, try out some free self-care tactics. A few options include meditation, going for a walk or run, or even using what you have for an at-home spa day.

As we enter into this chaotic cheerful season of giving, try to take a step back from all of the buying hype. Create a budget in advance, think twice before you click “add to cart”, and engage in some non-retail self-care. After the season ends you will feel calmer, happier, and less apprehensive about the number in your bank account.

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