It's the holiday season and many of us feel the pressure and impulse to break the piggy bank and spend our savings in gifts for our loved ones. Furthermore, many of us will get into debt to make sure all of our family members and friends have a gift from us under the Christmas Tree.
As a Money and Life Coach, I’m not one to tell my clients what to buy or not to buy. In the end, every dollar they spend is an investment, and what may seem like an investment to me, may not be an investment to them. My job is to help them recognize what exactly is the return on their investment, and if it ultimately aligns with their goals and values.
When it comes to buying a Christmas present, you are making two investments. First, you are thinking of the return you’ll get from giving a gift to a loved one, (perhaps a smile, a big thank you, a tear of gratitude) which you think will make you feel happy, recognized, excited, etc. The second return on your investment is the emotions you think your loved one will have when they receive your present.
I challenge you to first question what your real return on your investment is. Do you really think you’ll feel a certain way from giving a gift? And are you certain that the recipient of the gift will feel the way you think they will after unwrapping their present? If the answer is no, I would question why you are investing in presents this holiday season and make sure that you like your reasons. If the answer is yes, I would encourage you to think if you can generate those same feelings in some other ways which does not require a monetary investment. If you decide that buying the gifts is necessary, there is nothing wrong with that as long as you have made your decision from a place of consciousness.
After you have become clear about your “Why” behind the decision to purchase presents, it’s time to decide how you’ll go about doing this. In other words, make a plan. It is so important to have a plan ahead of time and before you head into the stores or start clicking away from your home computer or mobile apps.
Write down a list of all the people you are planning to buy a gift for and what you are planning to buy including its cost. Please do not write mental notes! Having a list on your phone or a notepad is crucial when it comes to planning. By writing down your list, you are making a decision and committing to it on paper (or Evernote like I do). Your brain is registering this and takes it seriously. Trust me! When you think you have a mental list, your brain is all over the place and doesn’t take you seriously. Without a written list you are already giving permission to your brain to change its mind when tempted.
Once you have your “Master List” with all the people and gifts you are going to purchase, you are ready to shop. (If you haven’t decided on a gift yet, write the dollar amount you plan on spending on each person). Decide when you are going to shop, either at the store or online and who you are going to shop for. Transfer the selected names and shopping list from your Master List onto your “Daily Shopping List”. You must do this 24 hours ahead of time. This is important because you are putting your prefrontal cortex in charge. This means you will have an easier time self-regulating and can avoid making impulsive decisions driven by your primitive brain.
The next day is shopping day and your job is to focus on your Daily Shopping List only. Do not be tempted to review your Master List. Please leave that one behind! Your brain did most of the heavy lifting when thinking and making decisions ahead of time, so now it is your job to manage your brain to stay focused on your decisions and not be sidetracked by shiny objects along the way. When you are tempted to shop for someone else or justify spending a few more dollars on a present, tell yourself “I’m honoring my decisions,” “I have already decided what is best, and my job today is to honor myself.”
You may run into a situation where you may see something perfect for someone else. This is because you were “looking” and were not focused 100% on your list. Remember, your goal is to give all your attention to your list. If the perfect object happens to “find you” and you are not spending more than 2 minutes on making a decision, then go ahead and get it. Otherwise, move on to the items on your list.
You will repeat these steps 24 hrs before each time you plan to shop. I suggest you do it sooner than later since procrastination will only provide your brain with more reasons to not honor your plan and follow this process.
It is important to mention that because we are humans, one day your shopping may not go as planned. I suggest you journal why you think this happened and learn from it. This means you are not allowed to beat yourself up, as I guarantee this will only result in complete derailing of your shopping plans. Just pick up where you left off and continue to honor your plans. In the end, having a plan and managing your mind will not only help you stay within your budget, but you can feel proud of yourself for having had a very intentional shopping experience.
Are you tired of overspending during the holiday season, or you don't have a budget and would like to get started in the New Year? Click here to schedule a free mini-session to find out how you can set up a budget, follow it, and reach your financial goals and dreams.
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