It’s Black Friday, but don’t be nervous
It’s that time of year when retailers seem to unite to instill a message in shoppers’ minds: ‘Buy things on Black Friday, or you’re an idiot’.
They convey this message in loud TV ads, targeted social media ads, and promotional emails that you don’t remember signing up for.
But you are not a fool. It is up to you – not the retailers – to decide what to buy and when.
It’s easy to overspend during the holidays
Feeling the need to spend money now is normal. Who wouldn’t want to be like smiling advertising models with a handful of gifts?
“At this time of year, there is a lot of pressure to consume happiness — to show your love through products,” says Kristen Whelan, M.D., clinical professor in the Department of Consumer Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Retailers want you to collapse under this pressure. Whelan says they make most of their money around this time during their “end-of-year campaign to sell products.”
You may experience other stresses as well.
“This year…we have almost a perfect storm when it comes to spending,” she says. “We have fears of scarcity, we have inflation, and we have this yearning to celebrate in a more natural way than we did last year.”
As that storm approaches, throw in feelings of guilt. This is a common emotion around the holidays and can lead to overspending, says Alex Melcomian, licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of the Center for Financial Psychology in Los Angeles.
Say that, again, you can’t get together with family, or you can’t afford those gifts your child wants.
Or maybe you don’t feel very guilty — just as bad for a number of reasons, whether or not related to the pandemic and the loaded holiday season. It can be easy to spend emotionally, rather than logically, in the hope of feeling better.
Oftentimes, Melcumian says, “Instead of feeling uncomfortable, we’d rather just fix it with his help than buy ourselves a little something.”
Make a rule-making plan
So, for various reasons, you might be ready to overtake Black Friday. With that in mind, try to remember that “bargaining” can often result in you buying more things than you need, says Ryan Stirling, founder of Future You Wealth, a New York-based investment firm. He is also the author of You Make Others Rich: Save, Invest, and Spend with Intention.
In addition, the fact that your favorite store is promoting a 40% discount does not change the amount in your bank account. So try to shop with intent, not in response to promotions.
Whelan recommends reviewing your finances to determine how much you can spend on vacation shopping. Create a list of gift recipients, too. With this information, you’ll get an idea of how much you’re spending on each person. (And if you plan to buy something for yourself, add your name to the list.)
As you plan, set some rules. Otherwise, it is very easy to decide something you want and buy it impulsively. You already have one rule to guide you: stick to the list. Yes, you may see the perfect item to sell to your aunt. But if it’s not on your list, or if it is and you’ve already purchased something for it, go ahead.
Rules that add “speed bumps” between the shopping Stirling says motivation and reactions are helpful, too. For example, you might walk away from potential purchases for at least an hour, if not a day, before deciding whether to buy or not.
Without setting yourself limits, you can do exactly what retailers want – look at their products and buy them impulsively. They definitely don’t want you to stop first.
Give other kinds of gifts
When you are in control of your spending, rethink gift giving.
Melcumian advises asking yourself: “What can I bring to the table? Is it only money, and is it only material? Or can I be creative?”
Creative can mean a few things, but before you change your style, single out your family or whoever you usually buy gifts for. Together they decide how to deal with gifts.
Perhaps you agree to a spending cap, or an exchange of gifts, rather than having everyone buy something for others. Your loved ones may be grateful for a new approach so they can also spend less. (They may also be happy to receive fewer things.)
Another way to break the tradition of buying everything for everyone is to just give Homemade or demo gifts. Whelan likes to combine the two with homemade gift certificates that could include, for example, babysitting night or dog sitting.
Providing services instead of physical gifts is not just about that Save us money, as you say. “It’s a way to encourage social connection and build relationships.”
This article was written by NerdWallet.