10 Tips for Avoiding Impulsive Spending During the Holidays

by Jamie Simmerman · 4 comments

impulsive holiday shopping

Christmas. The very word invokes outright fear in many impulsive shoppers. If you’re prone to smoking the credit cards or breaking the budget during the last few weeks of December, knowing a few tips on how to curb those urges can help you get through to the New Year with your dignity and your wallet intact.

Tips for Avoiding Impulsive Christmas Spending

impulsive holiday spending

  1. Understand why you buy. For the majority of non-necessity purchases, most consumers make the decision to buy based on emotion. The product evokes a positive feeling that compels them to open their wallets. The hope of being more attractive, fit, desirable, like a doll that looks like your favorite one from your childhood, a popcorn tin emblazoned with your favorite sports team’s logo, an LCD TV bigger than your next door neighbor’s, you get the idea. Stopping to examine the why behind the buy can help you determine if it’s a wise purchase.
  2. Don’t shop hungry- ever. Even if your blood sugar is slightly below normal, your judgment may be impaired. You may be cranky, emotional, and more impulsive. Eat a balanced meal before leaving the house and carry water and healthy snacks on all shopping trips.
  3. If you tend to be easily swayed by the opinion of others (such as your children) shop alone. Conversely, if you have little personal willpower when it comes to overspending, take along an accountability partner and discuss your spending limits before leaving home.
  4. Use a prepaid credit card. If you know you’re prone to overspending, determine your budget and put cash on a prepaid debit card earmarked for gift purchases. Leave your other cards at home (especially the 0% balance transfer credit card) and take only your Driver’s License and enough cash for gas and meals. When the card’s empty, you’re done shopping.
  5. Shop online. Some consumers do better shopping online. Using a prepaid credit card or a PayPal account, you can safely do most holiday shopping online. This allows you to thoroughly research products at your leisure without the pressure of other hurried shoppers or that pesky salesperson. You also have the ability to examine your shopping cart extensively and remove any unwise or extraneous purchases without embarrassment. If you’re a hands-on kind of shopper, you can still visit the stores to punch all the buttons and feel the stitching, but return home to make your final decision without duress. (Aside: If you are shopping online, remember to use online coupon sites such as this one to get the best deal.)
  6. Walk around the store with your items for a while before purchasing and see if the urge to buy passes.
  7. When considering the cost of an item, think of how many hours of work it takes you to earn the full purchase price. If you would be willing to work a 40-hour workweek without pay in return for receiving that comforter you’ve been eyeing, it may be an okay purchase. Otherwise, walk away.
  8. Freeze your credit cards for the month of December. Yep, dunk those plastic puppies in a cup of water and stick them in the freezer until the shopping season is over.
  9. Call your bank and request a lower daily spending limit on your debit or credit cards.
  10. Don’t feel you need to buy a gift for everyone you know. The mailman is truly not going to shred your junk mail or think you hate him because you don’t leave a gift in the box this year.

The usual tips of don’t wait till the last minute and take a shopping list apply, but for many impulsive shoppers, they’re not enough to curb the urge. If you feel a strong urge toward impulse buying at Christmas, your best solution may be to make a list and let someone else do the holiday shopping for you.

What tips do you have to help curb impulse buying over the holidays?

And if you are done shopping but you are already regretting your purchases, don’t fret. Here are 3 ways to get over the holiday shopping hangover.

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  • Young and Finance says:

    Shopping hungry will have you buying so many things you don’t need. For example, once I sampled something I would have never bought but since I was sooo hungry, it tasted like a steak dinner, lol. Needless to say, I ended up throwing 3/4 of it away because I didn’t finish it! So I agree, never shop when hungry.

  • Michael says:

    I also add things to an online ‘wish’ list to remind myself to buy them later. If I look at the list a month later, oftentimes the urge for the item has passed, whether I had intended it for me or someone else. Great strategies here!

  • Jean says:

    Online shopping is definitely a good idea. Pretty sure most do it now anyway but for those that don’t, you’re missing out on some killer deals. I got into the habit of online shopping pretty late but I’m glad I did as I’ve saved a ton of moolah by searching around for the best deals all over the cyber markets.


  • The Frugallery says:

    It’s a little late for this year, but the best way I’ve found to save money on Christmas gifts is to buy year-round. I make a list of everyone I need to buy for and shop the clearance racks/rummage sales/ebay year-round. I am able to get things off-peak that would cost much more if I bought them in season. Just make sure to keep a list or you’ll wind up finding all sorts of things in the back of your closet that you forgot about!

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