The holiday shopping season is approaching, which is good news for retailers. But not so good for consumers who overspend and end up with big credit card bills in January and would prefer to spend less.
Buying gifts for people you love may make you happy, but there are ways to spend less money and still be happy during the holidays.
If you’re one of those people who buy a few things for yourself while out shopping for others, it may not lead to more enjoyment anyway. Researchers have found that investing in relationships and experiences “buys” more happiness than spending on material things.
If you want to spend less during the holidays and enjoy life more, here are seven tips from Pamela Yellen, a financial investigator and the author of “The Bank on Yourself Revolution: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future.”
1. Wants vs. Needs to Spend Less
“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,” Yellen says.
“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 Charge Cards and Spend Less
“Some financial advisors tell you to leave your cards at home to avoid temptation,” she says.
“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 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,” Yellen says.
“Our self-esteem is greater and we just generally feel happy and 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.”