Holiday Spending Doesn't Have to be a New Year's Problem
Published On December 7th, 2011

Original article by Ted Hunter, edited by Robert Weinberg


Don’t let a moment of Holiday buying bring you a New Year filled with buyer’s remorse. The brief “feel good” benefit of spending more than you plan to will be totally wiped out by the additional stress and problems you’ll have to deal with when the bill comes.

The Problem

The holidays are here and along with the joy and celebration it’s often far too easy to lose sight of our financial goals and give into the impulse to overspend. Over the years, the emphasis on getting bigger and better things and on spending to have a happy holiday has become a burden.

This is especially true this year. With so many people frustrated about having to cut back and do without it’s easy to just give in and make yourself feel good for the moment, ignoring the inevitable price that will have to be paid at some point. Given these challenges, it’s only smart to stop for a moment and think about how you can have a great holiday without the problems that can come from overspending.

The Solution

Buy less and celebrate more. Don’t let the noise of the holidays drown out your common sense. The pleasure we get from the things we buy is fleeting. The pleasures of the things we do go on and on. So buy fewer things this holiday season. Concentrate on spending time celebrating with those you care about with special get-togethers and shared experiences. If you think back to years past, what mattered most to you? Was it the gifts you gave and got? Or was it the time you spent with those you cherish? In most cases you’ll see that the latter was far more important than the former.

Stick to your plan. As for the purchases you make, all spending must be based on having an overall plan for how you will spend and save your money—holiday spending is no exception. Such a plan must include a written list of every single significant expenditure you wish to make and the priority sequence in which you wish to make them.

Use the internet. For comparison shopping and for a lot of your buying the internet is the way to go. This will help in making smarter purchases and will lead to a lot fewer trips to the malls and stores. This is especially important because every shopping trip opens the door to new temptations and extra buying that wasn’t planned for. Unplanned purchases usually are ones that shouldn’t have been made. So make a list and stick to it, and minimize those shopping trips.

Limit the number of gifts. Limit the number of gifts you give to your kids. For adults, give a significant gift only to those really close to you. For others, discuss it and agree to forego gift exchange or limit it to something small like some special cookies or a nice bottle of wine. Most adults will be happy to end the obligation or agree to a gift limit of $10 or so. After all, what percent of the gifts you’ve ever gotten have you actually wanted and used?

The Bottom Line

Get back to the basics. Stick with your spending plan, spend time with your family and friends, and celebrate what really matters most in life during this holiday season.

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