9 reasons you spend more than you need to during the holidays
There are a few specific reasons we tend to over-spend during the holiday season. Being aware of them can help us keep our spending under control, while still enjoying the holidays with our loved ones.
You probably know you spend too much during the holidays, but it's unavoidable, right? Not quite. Many of us over-spend for a few specific reasons and knowing your triggers is the first step to sticking to a sensible holiday budget.
1. Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all those other pre-holiday sales
There's a reason pre-holiday sales are so popular with merchants. They know that if the average consumer has a tendency to overspend on holiday shopping, in a competitive sale environment, you will spend even more. One part of successful budgeting is planning and you can't plan if you don't know in advance what will be on sale.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday also work on the principle of scarcity. With a limited number of each item on sale, so you're more likely to impulse buy. I stayed home on Black Friday last year. I also stayed off the shopping sites on Cyber Monday. And guess what? I still spent less overall than many of my sale-obsessed friends.
2. Pride and expectations
During the holidays we spend time with family members we don't see very often, and sadly there's sometimes a reason we don't see them more. Perhaps they're people we feel competitive with or who have unrealistic expectations. So we buy them a high-end gift, for all the wrong reasons.
If you really feel the need to impress your relatives, there's a more affordable way to do it. Instead of buying a very expensive present, try putting in the time to find a more affordable, but truly thoughtful or appropriate gift. Scour their Facebook pages if you must, to find a hidden interest or passion. That kind of gift is even more impressive than one with a hefty price tag.
3. Perfect parent pressure
The pressure to be a perfect parent is there year round, but during the holiday season you're exposed to it even more. Perfect parents (with their adorable families) are smiling at you from every billboard and TV commercial.
Whether you have a toddler you want to bless with every toy in the store, or a teenager who needs the latest gadget, think before you buy. If you know your small child will spend more time playing with the wrapping, don't waste your money. Suggest to your teenagers that they ask for cash or gift cards to put towards their own gadgets. Remind them that the holiday season is a great time to get some part-time work or pick up some extra babysitting jobs to help save towards their new purchases.
Online shopping lets us shop from our own homes, late at night, in pajamas. It also makes it easy to overspend. We're using credit cards (which don't feel like real money) and we can't see our virtual shopping piling up in our shopping cart as we would in the store.
If you shop online, use technology to help you stick to your budget. Many sites will let you search by price range, or filter search results, starting with the lowest price.
5. Shopping psychology
Stores know a lot about using psychological tricks to get you to overspend, and during the holiday season they go into overdrive. Everything from the pricing schemes to the colors in the holiday themed display encourages you spend more. Just being aware of these tricks can help you resist.
We tend to waste a lot of food at any time of the year, but it gets worse over the holiday season. We'll happily prepare a huge turkey, all the trimmings, and enough side dishes to break the dining table (even though half the guests are children who won't eat more than the spoonful of veggies their parents insist on). If you can't be more realistic about what's needed, at least have a plan in place to freeze or re-use the leftovers.
7. Falling for party season propaganda
I've already read several articles online about how we all need new outfits, make-up and full body makeovers this time of year. Local beauty salons and spas will insist we need to prepare to bare all for the party season. But do we? It's December. It's cold. By all means dress up for the parties you're invited to, but you don't need to indulge in a full body make-over. Your regular make-up and the outfits you already own will work just fine.
8. Collective irresponsibility
It's easy to overspend when it seems like the whole of humanity is setting a bad example. Extravagant behavior that would make us feel guilty at any other time just slips by because everybody's doing it. Focus on what the holidays really mean to you and your family. It will help you distance yourself from the consumerism.
With all of us overspending on ourselves and our families, it's not surprising that every charity in the world uses the holidays to remind us of those less fortunate. Giving to charity is an honorable choice, but it should be part of your planned budget like anything else. Give what you can afford during the holiday season, just as you would any other time.
Sticking to a holiday budget takes some effort, but you'll congratulate yourself in January, when the credit card bills roll in, and you realize you didn't let your spending spiral out of control this year.