How I Avoided Holiday Overspending Last Week

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avoid holiday overspending

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


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Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.


  • Nicely done! Sounds like you did Black Friday right. One of the reasons I like online shopping so much is that I’m not distracted by “the sell”–I’m not seeing the cute displays or clever marketing. When we do have to shop in an actual store (rare for us), we always have a list and we try to do a surgical strike for our items. It’s too easy to be lured by stuff you don’t need!

  • We did not shop on Black Friday. We did recently look at dishwashers as a replacement for our current one. We ran into the high pressure treatment from the sales person we were dealing with, only a few left in stock, sales only good until tomorrow. My wife and I stepped aside and just said to ourselves we don’t need a dishwasher today and no needed to be treated like this and walked out of the store.

  • I never shop in crowded situations. I seem to be overly sensitive to the hype, and it makes me anxious. I would love to go to the mall and just meander around, but I only get that urge around the holidays, and then I won’t, because of the above reasons. I loved this post. You were very brave to even attempt this foray into madness, Laurie! 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Honestly, I didn’t expect a home improvement store to be busy on that day, so I was a little shocked. And the happy mood throughout the store was weird, yet contagious!

  • Sounds like a successful Black Friday experience Laurie! I did a bit of shopping, but mine was all done online as I live in the boondocks and didn’t want to travel 3 hours to do any in-store shopping. I did pretty well with sticking to only things from my approved spending list though. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, I hear you about the drive from the boonies. It was much more easy to tempt me to shop on Black Friday when we lived in the burbs, that’s for sure. 🙂

  • Janeen says:

    It’s my first time here, thanks for the tips. I shopped online this year and walked away with far fewer purchases than I had hoped. I guess that’s a good thing! I made an extensive list before the weekend to avoid your step #2, and it was surprising how few items were on sale, even with lots of online searching. Keeping financial goals in mind is my favorite tip, that’s huge for successful spending anytime. When I keep the big picture in mind (paying off the mortgage, for us) I almost always say no to the purchase.

  • catherine says:

    Brave woman! Shopping with a detailed list helps me too, I find I wonder around stores less.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, that’s what I thought about myself after I pulled into the parking lot. 😉 Love your tip about shopping with a detailed list. It definitely curbs the overspending.

  • I had work all day Black Friday, so I managed to avoid any unnecessary shopping and actually make money!

  • I didn’t go out on Black Friday this year. I already had my shopping done and I actually needed to work that day.

  • You are BRAVE! I am Canadian, so we don’t really do the Black Friday thing but we have the day right after Christmas as our sort of Black Friday and the stores are nuts. I avoid at all costs. These are great lessons though.

  • Nice job. I know the feeling of having something in my cart then having them take it out last minute. Gut feeling! I avoid most of the traps by just avoiding any trigger store…for me that would be Target. I think we somehow buy into the idea that if we have a particular item we have a perfect life. I actually have a post on that coming soon. 🙂

  • Nicola says:

    Good tips! We didn’t do any shopping on Black Friday; it’s not as big in the UK (yet) and there wasn’t anything that we particularly needed. I did have a browse online though 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      You guys are lucky it’s not a big deal over there. It’s just another marketing gimmick to get people to spend money. There are some great deals, but there are far more non-deals made up to look like great deals.

  • The biggest thing I struggle with is buying things for MYSELF. My wife and I don’t splurge much on electronics, home stuff, clothes, etc. throughout the year so by the time the good deals come around in December we have a pretty good idea of what we are looking for. I think being mindful of your spending and taking the time to think “do I really NEED this?” can save you hundreds around the Holidays.

    • Laurie says:

      Interesting, DC! I guess the good thing is that you’ve spent a lot of time researching, so that you won’t fall into that splurge spending, right? 🙂

  • dojo says:

    We didn’t need anything, so we didn’t shop during our Black Friday. I do agree that, a good plan and keeping away from distractions can really help not spend too much money 🙂

  • Good to know that there are now shops who give discounts for a certain period of time although there’s no occasion. #3 is really the one I am avoiding because once I start to do more exploring in a store, I end up buying something, which is not on my list. 😀

  • ‘The Sell’ is really effective! I notice this on myself too especially when the sales people are extra nice..

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