It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit of giving, and spend, spend, spend to your heart's content until you realize you’ve gone way over your budget. But holiday spending is the cause of many headaches come January when the credit card bills come rolling in.Before you swipe or tap your way into a financial hole that will be difficult to climb out from, consider these tips to avoid the dreaded holiday debt hangover and any buyer's remorse.
8 Great Ways to Avoid Holiday Retail Regret
1. Ignore Commercials
First things first: Don’t let the barrage of holiday ads sway your better judgement. Holidays ads, while sometimes heartwarming, have been cleverly crafted to get you to part with your hard-earned money, and they’ll say and do anything to get hold of it! The ads will tell you that only a big screen can make him smile; that only a diamond can make her swoon; and that we’re horrible parents if we don’t put the latest toys and tech under the tree. Despite what the ads say, you shouldn’t have to spend a fortune to keep your friends and family happy.
2. Create a Holiday Shopping Budget
An impressive 65 per cent of Canadians say they prepare a holiday shopping budget—but preparing one and sticking to it are two very different things! Households with children under 18 are more likely to carry their highest credit-card debt during the holidays (39%), and more than a quarter regret holiday purchases after receiving their credit card bills (27%). So, it’s important to truly commit to your budget. You'll need to first create a regular monthly budget to determine what you have left over for gift-buying. If it’s not as much as you had hoped, you either need to make do with it or figure out ways to give gifts without digging yourself into a hole. (Read our blog Can You Spend More This Holiday Season Without Going Into Debt? for some helpful ideas.)
3. Shop at Home First
I’m not talking about re-gifting items from holidays past (but if you have some that you can reuse, more power to you!). No, I’m talking about comparison shopping from the convenience of your couch on you computer or mobile device. This also gives you an opportunity to research special offers and find online coupons. Lastly, consider downloading a budgeting app that can help you keep track of your spending.
4. Leave Your Cards At Home
Credit cards are convenient, but can put you in the mindset of, “I’ll worry about this later.” If you’ve completed a household budget as highlighted in tip #2, then you know how much money you have to spend on gifts; so, bring this amount with you in cash when you go shopping to ensure you don’t get in over your head. And once the cash is gone, the shopping is done! (Read about how people got by without credit cards; you can try a couple of tips yourself!)
5. Create a Holiday Shopping List
Going grocery shopping without a list can cause you to purchase food you don’t need; holiday shopping without a list is no different. So, create a list of what you need, where it can be found, and how much it is. Be sure to take the list with you on each shopping trip so that you have a set mission in mind instead of aimlessly wandering the aisles. Your list will also help you avoid impulse purchases; while these are generally associated with smaller-priced items, they can still add up quickly.
6. Start Holiday Shopping Early
I know it’s already December, but you’ve still got a couple weeks to shop; even getting out right now is better than waiting until Christmas Eve. A big cause of holiday buyer’s remorse is due to people procrastinating, leaving all of their shopping to the last minute. That’s when you’re faced with frenzied crowds, making you want to grab whatever you can—no matter the cost—just to get out of the store. In addition, the less expensive items you may have had in mind could be out of stock, forcing you to purchase something much more expensive. So, start shopping early. Try picking up items throughout the year when they’re on sale.
7. Buy Experiences, Not Things
“Things” often have a shelf life. (This is especially true when it comes to children’s overpriced fads; remember the Furby?) There’s nothing more frustrating leading to buyer’s remorse than overspending on a gift only to see it buried in the back of the closet in a month or two. So, consider buying an “experience” that will last a lifetime. Consider taking the kids to a jungle gym or skating. Or what about taking your buddy to local concert? (There’s an added bonus to this approach: While the gift is technically for the other person, you get to enjoy it too—no regrets there!)
8. Watch Your Online Shopping
Over 22.5 million online purchases were made in Canada this year, making digital shopping the new norm. But it can be dangerous! Buying a gift with a few taps of your finger is a lot easier than trekking to the store, searching for items, comparing and evaluating, and waiting in line—all activities that give you time to reconsider your purchase. There’s also the “free shipping” trap. That’s when a retailer will offer free shipping if you spend over a certain amount. This hook persuades many people to spend more than they normally would—and often more than the shipping would have cost in the first place. Pro tip: When shopping online, don’t allow the retailer to retain your credit card information and auto-populate the fields at your next checkout; even typing in those numbers each time may give you pause to consider the purchase you’re about to make.
The holidays are a season of giving, and at Credit Canada we know it can be easy to get swept up in the excitement. But, you don’t want to be paying off those holiday purchases months down the road—it’s just not worth it! Of course, overspending can happen to the best of us, so if you do wind up making a few purchases you regret, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, make a mental note to do better next year. Want to talk about your retail regrets, or just need some financial advice? Contact a caring Credit Canada counsellor at 1.800.267.2272. Otherwise, here’s to a happy, healthy, and regret-free holiday!