Spending your hard-earned cash is a little too easy in the lead up to the holidays. During the month of December, you think nothing of hitting the malls each week to pick up the perfect gift for the people on your list, paying for parking and grabbing a gingerbread latte while you’re at it. Then you’re off to the grocery store, stocking up on the fixings for the big feast and whipped cream for the pies. Don’t forget you swiped your card at the gas pump, used your debit to pay for express shipping on those last-minute Christmas parcels, and dropped your cash in the Salvation Army’s collections box.
Holiday Shopping Mindset
In creating the jolliest of Christmases, it’s easy to get swept up in the commercial side of the holiday. Every day, you tap or swipe or sign along the dotted line for some integral piece of the season. From one day to the next, you’re accustomed to pulling the plastic from your wallet, and you’re used to seeing practically nothing blink back at you in your online bank account.
A habit takes a minimum of 21 days to form — which is just long enough for December’s activities at the till to sink in as routine. By the time 2018 rolls around, it’s a bona fide habit. It’s easy to keep the good times rolling and spending like it’s the holidays well into the New Year. But eventually the bills add up, and the only one on the hook for their payment is you.
Before you’re stuck paying too much interest on things you didn’t need to buy in the first place, you need to leave your holiday spending in December. Admittedly, that’s easier said than done. Shopping isn’t a simple habit to kick now that you’re used to satisfying each impulse with a deft use of your card.
It’s rare for people to be able to cut out spending with a flip of the switch. It’ll take another 21 days of concerted effort to break free from your spendthrift ways and replace it with a practice of savings. Though it’s hard, your chances improve greatly with each of the following actions you take:
Make a budget. If all you tell yourself is you need to spend less, your financial goals won’t come true. The statement’s too vague. Answer the question of how much less, so you can break your goal down into achievable steps. A budget will show you how much you make and how much you can contribute towards cash loans, credit card bills, and other responsibilities.
Use a list. When you have no list to guide your shopping, it’s easy to let slip an unnecessary item into your shopping cart. Don’t leave you house or visit an online store without one, and you’ll find it easier to avoid temptations.
Lock away credit cards. If even with your trusty list, you believe you’ll buy something you shouldn’t, shop with the exact cash you need for your trip. Uninstall mobile purchasing apps, and take out any debit or credit cards that tempt you. Just don’t cancel them. Cancelling credit cards can negatively affect your credit score.
Keep calm. Sometimes, before your 21 days are up, you may spend too much and have nothing left over for essential bills or unexpected repairs. At this point, don’t lose your head. There’s no single road to financial success. Yours might include quick solutions for unexpected bills that aren’t budgets or lists. You may need to momentarily rely on direct lenders, family, or even friends for support as you figure out your finances.
Remove yourself from temptations. It’s an obvious one, but it’s easy to overlook. Don’t let yourself walk into situations that you know will be expensive. Try to organize social gatherings with friends or family that don’t revolve around spending money. For example, instead of going out for dinner, suggest hosting supper at home.
Stay positive. It can be a challenge getting over an addiction—and spending money is an addiction. Unfortunately, you’re exposed to it a lot more often than other vices. Don’t be discouraged if you hit a roadblock. Twenty-one days is just the best-case scenario. It may take you longer to get out of the habit.
The important part is that you keep trying to undo the affects of holiday shopping no matter what. Whether it comes easily to you or it’s the hardest thing ever, just keep at it. Eventually, your hard work will pay off. You’ll pay down debts, and you may even contribute to a savings account. Remember this light at the end of the tunnel as you start to shake off the holiday shopping mindset.