Shopping during the holiday season can leave you feeling overwhelmed. If you set foot in a store, the array of piled-on shelves or aisles can be dizzying to behold. And, if you’re browsing online, you’re constantly bombarded by pop-ups offering special online-only discounts (not available in-store!). Moreover, with all the buy one, get one free (or at least half off), buy two get one, and other offers, it’s tempting to get something just to claim the freebie for yourself. It’s also easy to simply decide you’re going to reward yourself for “surviving” shopping by treating yourself to something you don’t need. If you’re trying to avoid falling into that particular black hole, read on for some tips on how not to overindulge yourself while shopping this holiday.
To some extent, avoiding overindulgence is similar to preventing overshopping in general. Start by creating a budget for how much you want to spend. If you’ve done your research, you’ll know which stores are offering the best sales, so take that into account. If you know a retailer is having a buy one, get one half off sale, think of two people you can give the same gift to. For example, if you’re buying two family members crewneck sweaters, you can get each of them the same sweater in a color they prefer and in the appropriate size. Generally, the offer still applies even if one of the items is in a petite or plus size, but it’s a good idea to check to be sure.
Not only should you set a monetary budget, but you should also budget your time. Decide in advance the maximum amount of time you want to spend looking for each gift, as well as the total amount of time you want to spend all together. Sticking to a set amount of shopping time will prevent you from getting overtired and making impulse purchases as a result—as in, no, your elderly grandmother really doesn’t need a whistling superhero tea kettle.
The advice to never shop on an empty stomach doesn’t apply to just grocery stores. If you’re planning on spending a couple of hours at the mall, eat a light meal before you go. If you eat too heavy a meal, you might feel too logy after to focus on shopping. In addition, toss a snack or two in your tote bag: a piece of fruit, some string cheese, or a granola bar. The tote bag will also be useful for keeping your purchases together; you can even be eco-conscious and skip the store bags—just don’t forget the receipts. Also, don’t forget a water bottle so you can stay hydrated and not have to waste time purchasing refreshments. In-mall coffee shops and food courts often have long lines, and why pay for something you can easily bring from home? It's better to save yourself some time and frustration.
If you are indeed shopping for yourself, you’ll have to make an extra effort not to overindulge. For example, if you believe the only color jeans should ever be is blue, it doesn’t matter how good a deal a store is offering on women’s black jeans. Those jeans are going to end up unworn in your closet. Rather than making an immediate purchase, walk away. Leave the store, find a seat somewhere in the mall, and decide whether the item you are considering is a need or want. If your old jacket is frayed and stretched out of shape, not to mention with a hole in the pocket, you probably do need a new jacket. However, if your jacket is perfectly fine, but you’ve changed your mind about the color, then it's a want, and you don’t need to replace what is a perfectly good jacket. Stepping away allows you to make a more measured decision, with the result that you will be less likely to overindulge and make an unnecessary purchase.
Another way to avoid overindulging while shopping is to ensure you can return the item you purchased. It’s always a good idea to check a store’s return policy to see how long the return window is. Also, consider what happens when you make the return. Will you get a full refund based on your payment method, that is, a credit on your charge card or cash back? Does the retailer offer store credit only or have a no returns/no exchanges policy? If you’re purchasing something in a store you don’t normally shop at, and you can’t get your money back on a return, it may be wise to consider a different retailer. That way, if or when you change your mind about your purchase, you won’t be left with a more or less useless store credit.
Not overindulging doesn’t mean you don’t get to indulge at all, but it’s best to save any sort of reward for after you’ve finished shopping. Had your eye on a new work from home outfit? Wanting to see what all the fuss about gingerbread lattes is about? Eager to try that nail color you saw a couple of salon visits ago? Acknowledge that you got through your holiday shopping within budget and without making excuses to buy yourself a bunch of stuff you didn’t need, and then give yourself a well-deserved treat.
Planning ahead, shopping when you’re not hungry or thirsty, recognizing the difference between needing something and wanting it, and understanding a store’s return policy are all steps that will help you avoid overindulging. Instead, you’ll feel satisfied with all you were able to accomplish.