The National Retail Federation predicts holiday spending this year will be up 3.8 to 4.4 percent over 2017, when shoppers spent $983 on average for gifts. While that’s good news for retailers, overspending can leave consumers struggling with debt and sabotage their savings goals.
Avoiding a debt hangover come January starts with changing our behaviors and expectations around spending and the holidays. To get started, try these:
7 Ways to Spend Less and Enjoy Life More for the Holidays
1. Get Clear About Wants vs. Needs: Those slick Madison Avenue types would have us believe that we “need” lots of things, from the latest techno-gadget to that trendy new shoe. They tell us that we're not sexy/successful/cool without what they're selling.…What do we really need? Stop and think about it and get clarity for yourself. And if you have children, teaching them the difference between needs and wants will empower them for life.
2. Curb the Impulse, Break the Spell: Next time you feel the urge to buy something you hadn't planned to buy, simply clench your fist or flex your bicep. Voila! The spell is broken and you can actually think clearly again!
3. Wrap Your Charge Cards: Some financial advisors tell you to leave your cards at home to avoid temptation. I prefer to wrap my cards in my goals. Every time I take a card out, I see a picture or some words that represent a goal that's important to me. I get the opportunity to stop and decide whether what I'm about to purchase is more important than that goal. If it is, or if it doesn't undermine my goal, I might go ahead and buy it. If it isn't, I get the satisfaction of knowing I'm a step closer to my goal because I chose to not purchase the item.
4. Distinguish Big Happy from Little Happy: The Big Happy for most of us is having memorable experiences and being with the people we love. That other stuff we chase? That's usually Little Happy – fleeting and not very fulfilling.
5. Be Consistently, Consciously Grateful: When we practice gratitude, we feel “wealthier” and more prosperous in all ways. Our self-esteem is greater and we just generally feel happier and more appreciative of many aspects of our lives. Because of this, we're less likely to crave material goods to feed an emotional need. And studies have shown that having a grateful attitude actually enhances our ability to make good decisions.
6. Create Value Comparisons: Rather than falling for some marketer's value comparison, how about setting up your own? Put a price tag on some things you really enjoy and value.
7. Know Your Spending Triggers: Do you feel driven to buy extravagant gifts as soon as the mall's Santa shows up or when holiday decorations pop up in the stores (earlier and earlier each year)? When you have a rough day at work, do you crave some retail therapy to feel better? When you're out with old friends, do you order the most expensive item on the menu? Are you triggered to overspend in a bookstore, hardware store, or swap meet? “Know thyself” – and especially know your spending triggers so you can outwit them.
One final tip to help you spend less and save more in the New Year: Practice using the time-tested 10/10/10 Savings Formula year round. Start setting aside 10 percent of your gross income for short-term needs, such as vacations and holiday gifts; 10 percent for anticipated mid-term needs and potential emergencies, such as a new car, replacement of major appliances, or a new roof; and 10 percent for long-term retirement planning. Doing this will allow you to pay cash for both routine purchases and inevitable emergencies, while avoiding bank and credit card debt and building savings toward your goals.
About the Author: Pamela Yellen is founder of Bank On Yourself, a financial investigator and the author of two New York Times best-selling books, including her latest, "The Bank On Yourself Revolution: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future." Pamela investigated more than 450 financial strategies seeking an alternative to the risk and volatility of stocks and other investments, which led her to a time-tested, predictable method of growing wealth now used by more than 500,000 Americans.
Financial security expert Pamela Yellen is author of the New York Times best-selling book, THE BANK ON YOURSELF REVOLUTION: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future. Pamela investigated more than 450 financial strategies seeking an alternative to the risk [...]