Are you feeling frazzled from the holiday season? Don’t even want to look at the shopping receipts? Wish you didn’t feel so stressed? Would like to be more focused on your loved ones? It is possible, and I’ve got the secret to having a good holiday.
I just attended a seminar presented by the Financial Therapy Association by Dr. April Benson the author of I Shop, Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying and the Search for Self. She spoke about what I think many of us are seeking these days… having a “Good Holiday Not a Goods Holiday.” I often feel a lot of pressure around the holidays to spend more than I had planned or buy gifts for the sake of buying. This leaves me feeling like the spirit of the holidays and the wonder I felt as a child are missing. If you are feeling the same way or realize you are paying for the holidays well into the new year, you’re not alone. The pressure to spend comes from advertisements, expectations from those around us, and compulsive shopping habits.
These compulsions may be something that haunt you throughout the year, or you may only experience them during the holidays. And some just overspend. So how do you tell the difference between compulsive shopping and overspending?
Here are the characteristics of a compulsive shopper versus an overspender….
A compulsive shopper will:
- Get excited before shopping
- Find pleasure during the shopping
- Regret shopping after
- Won’t return items and/or will hide the shopping
- Feel worse because of the shopping and looking to feel better the cycle begins again
An overspender will:
- Get excited before shopping
- Find pleasure during the shopping
- Regret after
- See what happened for what it is
- Return the items they shouldn’t have bought
A compulsive shopper will experience a high from shopping but end up feeling worse than before they shopped. An overspender will feel a high from shopping but will end up feeling better after shopping than when they started, because they acknowledge what happened and take steps to rectify the situation.
If you see yourself in these compulsive shopping characteristics, then read on to understand how you are being lured into this cycle?
- Special shopping days are advertised heavily. It starts with Black Friday. The day that retailers traditionally start turning a profit for the year, “they’re in the black.” Black Friday has even started to spill over into Thanksgiving Day, aka “Grey Thursday,” itself with stores opening Thursday. Then there’s Small Business Satruday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday, Super Saturday, and Brown Monday. Everyday we are inundated with advertisements about holiday sales. This leads me to the next point…
- FOMO “The Fear of Missing Out.” This is human nature, and retailers prey on this fear by advertising doorbuster savings, using bait and switch tactics, and the physical layout of the stores. We’ve all felt that urge to buy something because of the incredibly-amazing-sale-that-will-only-happen-once-in-a-lifetime!!!!! You know the amount of self discipline it takes to walk away from those sales. “Bait and switch” is advertising a deal to get you in the door only to find out there’s a catch or you end up buying more because you have to walk past everything to get to the sale item. Stores are laid out to encourage more spending. Large carts in the center of the aisles, aisles crowded with merchandise, and the color red is known to encourage spending.
So, how do we combat these tactics that play on our instincts? How do we stop overspending?
Remember shopping and spending are not the same as generosity and caring.
Why are you giving these gifts? Is it because you received a gift from the person? Does it make you feel good about yourself? Is it to “one up” the recipient? Are you trying to buy love? Is it to gain the power in the relationship? These are the symptoms of compulsive gift giving.
The best way to take control of your compulsive shopping habits/gifting is to have a spending plan. A spending plan is a gift to yourself.
- Be mindful
- Take note of how the environment is effecting you
- Take a break during shopping
- Evaluate the risk of overspending
- Review your spending plan
- Consider having a shopping support buddy
- And, after a shopping excursion review your spending plan…
- What went well?
- What went badly?
- What can you do differently or better next time?
- Do you need to change your spending plan?
If you need more help there are apps that can give you additional support. Paper Karma will remove you from catalogue lists by just scanning the address label. Dr. Benson has a “Stopping Overshopping Text Messaging Program” you can find on her website. The app will send you text messages according to your needs and settings with motivational messages and guidance to resist the compulsion.
Money should be used to make yourself and others happy.
Research shows that giving experiences is more satisfying than material goods and those experiences become more valuable over time.
Helping others rather than yourself brings more happiness than spending. A Gallop poll in 100 countries found this to be true across all cultures and income levels!
- Here are a few ideas for meaningful out-of-the-box gifts:
The SoKind Registry: you can give or request meaningful gifts locally
- Classes are a great experience gift
- Communal gifts: family vacation, whole home gifts
- Gifts that keep on giving:
- Kiva.org: This organization is great! All the teenagers on my list who I would normally give cash will be getting a donation to Kiva in their name. This organization provides micro-loans to people in third world countries. They claim I high payback rate which your recipient could then have the money deposited in their bank account or they can finance another micro-loan. What a great way to teach children about economics, politics, entrepreneurship, and the value of a dollar.
- Heifer International: You may have heard of this organization before. You can gift an animal to a family in a third world country that will provide food and the foundation for beginning businesses. Additionally, the first female born to the animal has to be given to another person in their community so this gift really could grow to feed a village. I thought this was a great gift to make in the name of younger children. I thought I would make them a picture book to go with the gift, so they can better understand.
Gifts we don’t recommend:
- Gift cards. $41 Billion in gift cards went unused between 2005–2011!! Retailers know this and love it when you buy a gift card.
“You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.”
Give a meaningful gift this year. Something that is satisfying and creates a memory for you and the gift recipient.