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Holiday Shopping Triggers

Do you ever get caught up in the emotion of the moment and make a purchase you later regret?

Woman holding shopping bags outside
6 holiday spending triggers to conquer.

Do you ever get caught up in the emotion of the moment and make a purchase you later regret? If so, the holidays are the perfect time to practice your smart and prudent spending skills. There are plenty of emotional appeals and tricky money situations during this joyful season, so it's a great time to try out some techniques for making rational, grounded choices with your resources.

Shop alone

Whether it's Black Friday or even a post-holiday sale, it's become a tradition to hit the stores with close friends or relatives for some buying and bonding. Though it can mean fun and bargains, shopping in this way also opens you to several potential pitfalls. For example, will you feel guilty if you're not buying as many presents—or presents as “nice”—as your shopping buddy? Or maybe you'll continue to browse, even though you've gotten everything on your list, because your companion isn't done shopping yet.

Ignore the Joneses

You may have already committed to not buying the “hot” gifts of the season for your loved ones. But the discipline effort isn't done there. Also try to resist the urge to keep your holiday lights on 24/7 because that's what the neighbors are doing, or buying that new outfit because you know so-and-so will definitely have one at the annual holiday party.

Avoid the big sales

Recent research has shown that shopping among large, frenzied crowds activates evolutionary survival instincts. You can get tricked into entering hoarding mode when you think others are going to take the “scarce” resource you're after. Instead, shop when there's less pressure and a slower pace.

Talk about it

A lot of your expectations for what constitutes a wonderful holiday season may be based on what you assume your loved ones want. It may take a bit of the surprise out of the festivities, but querying those you care about can help you zero in on the one or two things they truly appreciate. And you may just find out that what means the most to them is simply spending time together.

Blow off steam

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the avalanche of tasks to complete or the burden of making things “perfect.” If you internalize too much of this anxiety, it can lead to overindulging on retail therapy—whether that's buying for yourself or others. Take the time to exercise, enjoy a nap or just do nothing for a while.

Limit your online socialization

A study in the Journal of Consumer Research indicated that the more time you spend on social media, the more you spend—period. Browsing pictures and news from loved ones online in the run-up to the holidays can be especially dangerous, since you may already be feeling guilty about not being able to see everyone in person. Instead of trying to buy a connection with these people via a gift, set aside time to talk with them on the phone instead to reaffirm your connection.

Being smart with your money decision around the holidays doesn't have to take the cheer out of the festivities. By bringing the focus to a more simplified approach based around quality time with loved ones, you'll be all set to kick off the New Year with a merry financial outlook.