Holiday Shopping Frenzy

The Christmas spending frenzy has begun. The shelves and racks are brimming over with products and goods just waiting for you to grab them. Special sales and discounts abound promising to be the best deal ever. Everywhere you look is a promotion or advertisement to buy now, it’s on sale… only for today!

The crowds grow; the push is on to get there before anyone else, to get the deal, to touch the item and to purchase it first. The excitement pulses in the air, the buzz of the holidays is palpable… the concern for fewer days to shop this year motivates us all! To compensate for fewer shopping days, many stores opened on Thanksgiving Day to give us a head start on our Black Friday shopping.

My sister-in-law shared with me that she went into a Target store late in the day on Black Friday and she described the store’s appearance as if a swarm of locusts had come down and swiped the place clean. It was shocking to her how bare the place was and in such disarray; normally the store is organized and well stocked. She asked the clerk what happened and the answer was, “Welcome to Black Friday!”

Truthfully this is shocking behavior, it is so extreme. I wonder why we are so motivated by a sale or discount? When did we hand over our personal power and buying decisions to marketers and advertisers? Are we even aware that we are letting them run the show?

Granted it is captivating and pleasing to get something that we truly want or need at a lower price than normal or expected. It does get the juices flowing to pay considerably less than what it goes for every day. When my laptop gave up the ghost it was satisfying to find a good quality one for hundreds less than I thought I would have to pay to replace it.

Yes it does “get the juices flowing,” just like a ride on a roller coaster, giving us the same thrill and sense of exhilaration. Our adrenalin pumps as the intensity in our bodies increases and as with the excitement of a ride, our focus narrows and all else fades away around us. Only the thrill of the ride, the hunt for the deal is important. We lose the ability to consciously decide to go any other way but the way of the deal. It is often too late to change your mind, as the safety bar comes down, holds us firmly in the car and off we go with a rush out the door or to our computers to buy. We hardly remember the real reason we are buying the thing let alone why we wanted it in the first place.

Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, has the intensity of the holiday lessened? Or does the emotion that motivated us on those days still push us to buy, buy, buy? It all depends on you; only you can decide to do it another way.

For many the thrill of the shopping experience is so powerful there is no way to convince them to see it another way. It is not my intent to convince, it is my desire to share another way, to share another path.

What is that path?

The answer may surprise you, for it asks that you let go of something that is so strongly ingrained in our culture; it has taken on the qualities of something sacred. Yet it is actually harmful to your financial well-being.

Let go of the sale.

Release the grasp that buying at a discount, on special or with a coupon has upon you. We have succumbed to the belief that it is somehow virtuous or divine to seek out the sale as if we have been hypnotized by the very idea. To buy any other way is somehow seen as stupid or unwise at best. We take great pride in getting something deeply discounted, we wear it as a badge of honor to have done so.

It is this very belief that keeps you tied to the whims of marketers, advertisers and retailers. It takes away your ability to consciously decide and discern what is best for you and, surprisingly enough, the sale actually hurts you more than you are aware. Studies have shown that we actually spend and buy more AND the savvy retailers, such as the big box stores, know and exploit this psychological fact.

There is a fairly simple solution… do not seek out a sale. Instead, make your list, set your budget for each item on that list and go out on the day that is most convenient to your lifestyle, and buy what is on the list. If the item happens to be on sale, then you will have saved some money. If not, don’t worry, you planned on the purchase so buy it anyway.

One word, or two, of caution… do not be compelled or drawn into buying MORE of the thing that’s on sale. Only buy what is on your list. That will be your biggest challenge because the inner voice is very savvy at convincing you to take advantage of the sale. After all, isn’t that what a smart shopper would do?

My answer to that is NO. It is not what a smart shopper would do. A smart shopper, one that cares about having a healthy money life, would stick to the list and keep on going. The smart shopper would be pleased to have saved money in the process.

The second word of caution is to NOT buy the thing on the list if it costs more than you planned. Find something else that fits your budget.

Keep this foremost in mind… THE SALE is a money blind spot and as is true with blind spots, it is the area you cannot see or hear satisfactorily; your field of vision is impaired. So walk away, do not buy it just because it is on sale.