Doorbusters, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and giant shopping “events”: With holiday items hitting shelves before you’ve even decided on a Halloween costume and retail marketing machines going into their annual overdrives, the lure of holiday shopping deals is hard to resist.
Like last year, some American consumers are planning to spend handsomely during the holidays, despite inflation and fears of an impending recession. The average shopper is expecting to spend $1,455 this season, according to Deloitte’s annual holiday survey.
In terms of their spending priorities and budgets, though, times have changed. “Non-gift purchases are taking a backseat as shoppers prioritize social experiences and buying gifts for others,” the report said.
“Every year, millions of Americans go into debt — or further into debt — because of impulsive, holiday-related purchases,” said Jesse Mecham, founder of the personal budgeting app YNAB. “Black Friday and convincing retail displays that seemed like a great deal in November feel like burden and regret in the New Year.”
To resist the urge, Mecham offers some tips. Shop online with a list and unsubscribe from marketing emails.
“These messages create a false sense of urgency, and the best way to avoid this additional external pressure to spend is to not see these messages at all,” he said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of it all and feel like holiday spending happens to us. But you have a choice.”
John Schmoll, founder of Frugal Rules, says the best way to avoid large impulse buys is to shop with a budget.
“Having a known budget will give you power when in the store to say no to something that is tempting but you know you can’t afford. Once you max out that budget, it’s time to stop making purchases,” Schmoll said. “I know this can be a challenge, especially if you’ve not saved for it throughout the year, but it’s the best way to avoid a nasty surprise come mid to late January, when you receive your credit card bill.”
Decking the halls is a holiday tradition that predates those well-stocked seasonal shopping aisles. But that doesn’t mean you need to go out and purchase giant lawn inflatables or cover your house with lights that you’ll continue to pay for through your electricity bill.
For festive, natural and cost-free decorations, head to your local tree farm, nursery or hardware store, which probably has a pile of tree trimmings you can take and decorate for free. You can still show off your holiday cheer, but wait until after Christmas to buy decorations, when they’re steeply discounted. You’ll get a lot more satisfaction putting those up next year knowing you didn’t overpay for them.
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Bulky Exercise Equipment
With New Year’s resolutions right around the corner, it’s easy to be tempted by deals on expensive fitness equipment to motivate you toward your goals. But our budgeting experts caution against these purchases as being potentially highly regrettable.
Schmoll recalls family members who spent thousands of dollars on new ski equipment that was on sale for the holidays.
“They used it only 2-3 times, and it eventually sat collecting dust. They regretted the decision and it only added debt to their lives,” he said. “Spending on something you want that is expensive isn’t the issue. It’s spending on something you won’t use and can’t afford that ultimately causes bigger problems in most cases.”
Expensive Gift Wrap
Americans spend upwards of $2.6 billion annually on gift wrap. That’s a lot for something that consumes valuable natural resources and typically gets immediately discarded, contributing 4 million tons’ worth of trash to landfills annually.
Look for alternatives around your house to wrap gifts in instead: newspaper, Amazon boxes or other repurposed product packaging, fabric, Mylar balloons, mason jars and other reusable items. If you’re crafty, homemade fabric gift bags are a gift that recipients can use to keep paying the goodness forward.
Think ahead when you’re unwrapping your gifts from others this year, too. Saving all the best ribbon and paper will save you money next year.
A Ginormous Turkey
A perfectly golden roasted turkey may be the idealized star of the holiday table, but with avian flu and inflation driving turkey prices up, this year might be a good one to buck tradition. The bigger the gobbler, the harder it is to achieve that picture-perfect bird — especially one that happens to also be moist inside, cooked to a safe temperature and actually ready when everything else is. (If you need any more convincing, just search your social media feed for #turkeyfails.)
More manageable options to feed a crowd include roasting a couple of chickens, a spiral ham, veggie lasagna or a tamale spread from your favorite carniceria. A festive meal free of hassle, smoke alarms and disappointing dry meat has been regretted by no one ever.
It’s easy to get swept up by holiday impulse buys that include seasonal dazzle, like a holiday party dress or ugly Christmas sweater. With trends here and gone in a matter of months, there are few better ways to waste money than on something you may wear only once.
Rather than buying into the cycle of fast fashion and disposable clothing, focus your apparel purchases on high quality pieces that you know you’ll wear for years. Even if you don’t regret the cost, shopping with sustainability in mind is something you can feel proud of.
Shiny new consumer electronics like laptops, iPads and iPhones can be alluring around the holidays. But the improvements of the newest models are often just incremental.
If you can resist the pressure to keep up with the latest drops, you’ll find much better deals on the previous models when a new one is released, typically soon after the holidays or before the start of a new school year. If you know you’ll be wanting to upgrade soon, doing your research in advance will save you from that “should have waited” sense of remorse.
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