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One of my favorite parts of gift-giving is shopping for the perfect item, so avoiding the stores this time of year is not an option for me. However, since I rarely shop for leisure, I also find that I can easily go crazy on stuff for myself, so I’m always looking for ways to keep my holiday spending in check.
To control my inner Santa, who’s prone to buying lots of “To: Me, From: Me” gifts, I’ve found some non-traditional hacks. Try them for yourself:
1. Calculate how many hours you’ll have to work
In the book Your Money Or Your Life, the author describes the process of calculating your “true hourly wage,” where you add up ALL the time you spend related to work then divide it into your earnings. Beyond just time spent at work, add in the time you spend getting ready for work, commuting, answering emails after hours and even “vacating” work — it adds up to far more than the standard 80 hours we typically use.
When you’re tempted to buy something you hadn’t planned on, take a moment to figure out how many hours of work it will cost you. Suddenly a $25 sweater at Old Navy doesn’t sound so cheap when that means 3 more hours of work!
2. Go to yoga first
A Brigham Young study found that when you’re focused on physical balance (such as attempting tree pose in yoga), you’re more likely to weigh your shopping options and often choose the lower priced item. Don’t have time for yoga? Just wear high heels instead!
3. Only spend big bills
If you’re prone to rationalizing small purchases as “only” so much money, this one’s for you. Go to the bank first (you’ll actually have to go inside to the teller) and get your shopping money in large bills — 50’s and 100’s. Psychologically, this will give you that moment to pause and think twice about an impulse buy, or even just that quick stop at Starbucks for a $6 latte. You will probably find yourself resistant to breaking a $50 bill for a cup of coffee and might even think twice about a large purchase that requires you to lay out more than one bill.
4. Keep your hands to yourself
My ex used to work at the now-defunct Circuit City, and he was always telling me that one of the ways he got people to buy stuff was by suggesting that they pick it up and play with it. Another study backed that up, finding that merely touching an object creates perceived ownership, which makes you want to take that thing with you. If you’re serious about sticking to your list and not over-spending, keep your hands in your pockets or on your cart.
If your holiday rituals also include plunging headfirst in the bustle of the mall or the Magnificent Mile, try these tips and let me know how you do — I know I’ll be pulling out all the stops to enjoy the season without draining my bank account. And let’s be honest, I give myself a little budget to treat myself in some way, but having limits helps!
Have some fun, but not so much that you’re hating yourself going into the New Year.
About the Author
I believe that the true meaning of financial security is the ability to make decisions without having to worry about money. There are both factual and psychological aspects of this belief and my mission is to help people find that intersection in their own lives according to their personal values and goals.
I hold the CPA/PFS license and am a CFP® professional, but I don’t sell any products or manage any money. When I’m not writing, I’m working one-on-one with people through my coaching business, Financial Bliss with Kelley Long. I’m also a member of the AICPA Consumer Advocate Council and am frequently quoted in the press on financial literacy issues facing Americans.
I love to apply my own money lessons to my writing as well as break down some of the more complicated financial planning techniques into plain English. My goal in life is for all people to feel able to make their own financial decisions with confidence, being fully aware of the pros and cons of the actions they take.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to encourage any lifestyle changes without careful consideration and consultation with a qualified professional. This article is for reference purposes only, is generic in nature, is not intended as individual advice and is not financial or legal advice.