How I Avoided Holiday Overspending Last Week
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I hadn’t planned on going shopping on Black Friday; I’ve avoided the day for years. However, I decided at the last minute to hit up the local home improvement store here, as they had some stellar deals on some things we needed.
As I fought the crowds and savored the deals, I felt the pull to shop with reckless abandon; to blow my budget and give in to the desire to grab all the Black Friday deals I could. Instead of completely blowing my holiday spending budget and financial goals, I took a deep breath and turned my shopping experience into a learning opportunity. I went from consumer to scientist and began studying the behavior of the shoppers around me as well as the mood in the store to glean some valuable lessons on how to avoid holiday overspending.
What You Can Do to Avoid Holiday Overspending
So, I walked into the home improvement store at roughly 7:30 a.m., with “early riser kid” in tow. The store opened at 6:00, and they had some awesome deals that were available from 6:00 a.m. to noon only. Knowing that a few of these deals were Christmas gifts, and a few more were things we needed to buy anyway, I thought I’d score some huge money savings and get what we needed in the process, despite my general rule of not shopping on Black Friday.
The place was beyond packed. People everywhere. This is the home improvement store we go to regularly, and it’s always fairly busy, but on Black Friday, at 7:30 a.m., the parking lot was so full that people needed to park across the street to access the store. After my shopping experience was over, I had time to reflect on some spending lessons I learned by observing the behavior of the other shoppers around me, as well as what I felt myself while in the store. I’ve broken these lessons down into four practical tips you can follow to avoid holiday overspending.
#1 – Beware of ‘the Sell’
In spite of the craziness in the parking lot, the mood inside the store was AWESOME. There were more than enough employees stationed everywhere, to help direct and guide buyers, and they all had smiles on their faces. The “super deal” products were all lined throughout the main aisles of the store, easy to spot. I noticed the music in the background; it was warm and cheery. Everything was set up to encourage ‘The Sell.’
The “sell” can consist of the mood in the store, the music playing in the background, or the friendliness of the employees. All of these “tactics,” when done right, have the ability to make us feel comfortable buying things we wouldn’t normally buy. Don’t fall prey for “the sell” and make sure to stick to your shopping list. Use the ads beforehand to decide what you will and won’t buy.
#2 – Don’t Let Your Emotions Get in the Way
As I observed the plethora of shoppers on Friday, I noticed that they were wound up something big. Their eyes were searching the store in a happy frenzy, eager to grab what they could and not miss out on any money savings. A phrase I heard often as I worked to watch and learn from the other customers was “Ooh! Look at that! Let’s get some of those too!”
No plan, no budget; just an over-eagerness not to miss out on anything. Yikes. That’s a sure-fire holiday budget killer, if I ever saw one.
#3 – Don’t Hang Around
Try not to linger in the store longer than you need to, especially if you’re still a bit vulnerable in the area of sticking to your budget. I did linger on Friday, mostly for the purposes of observation, and ended up putting some extra deals in my cart. Luckily I came to my senses at the checkout line as I counted up how much money we were spending and gave the extra stuff to the cashier, explaining kindly that we’d decided that we didn’t want those items.
#4 – Shop With Your Financial Goals in Mind
My last tip is to keep your short and long-term financial goals in the forefront of your mind as you make your list, your budget, and most importantly, as you shop. If you work as you shop to keep your dollars instead of spend them, you have less of a chance of being lured into buying things that aren’t on your list and in your budget.
It’s easy to spend more than what you’d planned on when it comes to the hustle, bustle and joy of the holidays, but by keeping your emotions in check and understanding the tactics used by the store to get you to buy, you have a good chance of coming out of the holiday season in a better financial place, void of unplanned credit card bills you didn’t budget for.
Did you shop on Black Friday this year? What store tactics have the ability to get you to spend more than you’d planned to? What are your best tips for avoiding holiday overspending? What did I miss?
Photo courtesy of: Beth Rankin