The time between Thanksgiving and New Year's has turned into America's busiest shopping season. Every time I set out the door, turn on the TV, or surf the Web, I see signs that yell "Best Deal of the Year!" or "70% off!" or "Buy 1 Get 1 Free!" These deals, combined with the gift-giving nature of the season (the thinking might go: as long as you are buying gifts for everyone else, why not add yourself to the list?), is enough to make even the most disciplined budget-follower lose her grip on the wallet.
I find the hardest time to resist a purchase is during Christmas-time. But that doesn't mean we have to go broke enjoying the holidays. After all, what fun is the holiday season if we greet the new year with leftover debt and a corresponding dose of buyer's remorse? Here are four tips that has helped me when I see those Deals Deals Deals sign.
1. Focus on the item, not the deal:
The danger some shoppers fall into (and I count myself among this group) is that we believe that item, at that price, will never be available again. But like my mother once said, there are many deals in the sea. Many times, we are more focused on the deal instead of what we are actually buying. But is a 70% off dress really that great of a purchase if it's a dress in a color that you won't wear, a style that you are not that fond of, and buying means you will have to miss your credit card payment? I would say, no.
2. Allow yourself a splurge here or there:
It IS the holiday season, so don't be a complete Grinch with yourself. The occasional splurge is a healthy part of a balanced budget, as long as you can afford it. Whether it's a $20 necklace from Etsy or a $500 iPad, purchasing one or two things that you really want will help you curb the desire to blow your money away on a bunch of things you don't care about.
3. Don't save your credit card information with an online retailer:
Many savvy retailers will offer to save your credit card information so you can make your subsequent purchases with the click of a mouse. Pre-saved credit card information makes shopping convenient (no more filling out those digits and addresses), but it also makes it intoxicatingly easy to buy. If I had pre-saved information with, say, RueLaLa (one of my favorite sample sale sites), I would be in real trouble. Scientists say that buying with a credit card doesn't "hurt" as much as buying with cash, and I have to believe that clicking a mouse is much less painful than filling in credit card information.
4. Buy with cash when you can:
Pulling out those crisp twenties might just make it more difficult to spend than just swiping out plastic. Our brains register the pain of spending with cash. So, by buying with cash instead of a card, you are helping science work for you, not against you.
What are your tips for staying on budget during the holidays?
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