Curbing the Impulse: How to Resist Buying for Yourself at Christmas

It starts with the best of intentions: I go to a craft fair, Christmas market, or boutique to pick the perfect presents for my kith and kin, but instead, I walk out with several items for myself, and with a reduced budget, my shopping list no shorter than before. How to buck this trend?

Limit the amount of impulse shopping you have to face. I know that one of the biggest impulse spots for me is flash sale sites, so I've stopped reading their emails until the holidays are over. Yes, I love some of those sites, and I'm sure there are some great bargains, but the barrage of coupons and discount codes makes me much more liable to buy something on impulse, and chances are, I wouldn't be purchasing Christmas gifts there anyhow. If you have any similar weak spots, consider cutting them out or limiting your exposure.

Shop in a very pointed fashion. Think of the general type of gift that you'd like to get someone and then go seek it out. This will help you avoid aimless browsing, which can lead to aimless purchasing. To an extent, this takes the fun out of browsing, but it could be just as fun to sit and ponder the ideal gift before really shopping for it. It also prevents what I like to call "the library phenomenon": if you allow yourself to look too much at the shelves around the desired book, chances are, you're going to take more books home.

Shop online.This is an extension of the above point. For me, if I don't have shelves to look at, then I don't get as distracted by neighboring items. Sure, there's the endless rabbithole of related products, but I find it much easier to be directed in my online shopping. Or maybe you're the other way around, and when you go to a store, you just want to get in and out. Pick the shopping method where you, personally, will linger the least.

Make a budget for yourself. Rather than trying to cut yourself out of the equation entirely, decide on an acceptable amount that you can spend on yourself before you start shopping. That way, you're less likely to impulse buy, there's not a sense of guilt when you do, and you've already set some reasonable limits on yourself, so it can't get out of control.

Change your gifting patterns.This involves more people than just yourself, but if your family or friends are facing similar concerns, then you may want to talk to them about doing a Secret Santa exchange, a charity donation, or some other gift exchange that cuts down on the amount of shopping you have to do.

Reconceptualize and rethink before you buy.Tess recently wrote about a shopping experience she had where her ideal of the item got in the way of its reality. Stopping to think about why we want it, what we'll do with it, and whether it's perfect or just the effect of rose-colored Christmas glasses can help us get some distance between the pull of desire and the reality of the thing at hand.

Take time away. With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it's easy to develop an equally bustling shopping mantra that makes you feel like it's now or never to make that purchase. But don't let the "carpe diem" feeling get the best of you. As with any shopping, it can help to take time away from the item and see if your mind keeps going back to it. If it does, then perhaps it's something that you would really enjoy and cherish, but if not, then the chances are good that it was just an in-the-moment purchase.

Not all of these are fun, and certainly you don't want to rob the shopping experience of all its joy, but keeping some of these considerations in mind or tailoring a set of expectations that fits your shopping style might help you save a bit of money this season. Do you have any other good tips?

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