As a kid, my dad spent his summers working on his grandparent’s ranch. His stories about the sheep have always fascinated me. They tend to move in a herd, not always in a logical or rational way. When one sheep makes a move, the herd often follows, without a clear reason or direction. Sometimes the results are humorous, other times they are tragic.
I’m not a big fan of crowds, but I have an unnatural love for Black Friday. I think it’s fun to be in the middle of all the rush and energy and craziness. But Black Friday and all the holiday shopping that follows can also lead to a budgeting disaster.
For example, 5 am on Black Friday found me standing in line at Fred Meyer. I was there with a game plan, ready to make a specific purchase that my husband and I, along with our budget, had all agreed on ahead of time. However, as people around me started buying enormous flatscreens and tiny iPods, the pressure started to build. It’s such a great deal! It comes with an iTunes gift card! You can pay it off next month! They bought one! You need it! JOIN THE HERD!
This social pressure to spend beyond your budget or your priorities is tough and tempting.
I feel the herd mentality…
In the grocery store when I am getting ice cream and Goldfish crackers behind someone buying organic fruit snacks and humanely-raised eggs. Would my kids behave better if I eliminated red dye and supported happy chickens?
When my friends are excited about a great purchase that I really want but don’t actually need. Everybody else is doing it! Baaaa…
Listening to those Video Only ads on the radio: You’ll be sorry! Why is this couple always so excited about comparison shopping for new technology? Will I really be sorry? They must own a dozen TV’s by now. Surely we need a new one, too!
When my Facebook feed and blog reader are cranking out posts full of tempting offers that would be perfect for the dog I don’t own, the person who is not on my list this year, the trip I can’t afford, or the kid who won’t turn 13 for another 12 years. 47 of your friends “like” this. 26 of them have bought it. What are you waiting for?!
As we headed out of Fred Meyer on that Black Friday morning, lots of thoughts were going through my head. Most were incoherent and involved coffee. However, watching those shelves empty and carts fill up, I started to think more about how the holiday season puts so much pressure on us to spend, spend, spend.
We want to prioritize quality time with our family. We want to build sweet traditions. We want to focus more on Christmas and less on our checking account balance. Oh, but the deals are so good and abundant! It’s incredibly easy to move with the crowd, to get caught up in spending herd-style, whether that group gathers in a store or online.
I fight it by remembering that:
Deals come and go and come again. Maybe you don’t have the cash for today’s daily deal voucher? Don’t sweat it. Or buy it. I can almost guarantee a similar one isn’t far behind.
I am responsible for my spending. Suddenly the mob fades away. I am the one that has to reconcile impulse buys with my checking account. And my husband.
My family’s budget and priorities are different from the sheep people around me. One person’s camera is another’s student loan payment and another’s road trip fund.
Stuff is stuff. Today’s treasure might be tomorrow’s house clutter. Resist the impulse to spend money on things that are not important to you and those you love.
I love this holiday season as much as anybody. I get excited just thinking about all the shopping and wrapping and decorating and baking that will fill the next few weeks. But I find that I really have to be strict with myself for the entire month of December. I constantly have to talk myself down from deals that don’t serve the best interest of my family or my budget. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing. I am responsible for keeping my family and my finances on track.
Angela also wrote a great post on this topic last year: 3 steps to an intentionally spent Christmas.
Leave a comment! How do you avoid the herd mentality and stay on track with your holiday spending?
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I’ve been doing a lot more of my holiday shopping online instead of stores, because even after I put an item in my “cart” I still have time to think about whether I really want to buy it before I pay and complete the order. Frequently, upon review, I find myself just closing that browser window instead of buying. In the stores, I do feel more pressure because crowds make me anxious so I end up acting much more impulsively!
On another note, I worked in electronics sales for 7 years (full disclosure: Sears home electronics, Magnolia Audio\Video (RIP), and a small local custom A/V company), and when it comes to Video Only, you will be sorry if you shop there. I cannot tell enough people how horribly they treat both their employees and their customers. If you buy something there and open the box they will NOT take it back no matter what, even 5 minutes after the sale, no swapouts if something isn’t working correctly or is damaged–they refer you to the manufacturer, no matter what, which generally means you will be paying for some shipping. The company also has a pretty draconian commission structure which rewards employees who get the sale no matter what means they use–even flatout lying. For anyone who has had a good experience with them, you are lucky. All of the other retailers price match, even from online sources, so there is no reason to support such a mercenary retailer.
Dangit! I should have read this 30 minutes ago! Haha.
Thank you for this post! I am going to print this out and read it every day until after the holidays! Reminds me of what is really important–spending time with my loved ones, not spending money on a ton of gifts they (and myself) will forget about or give away in a year or two.
Thank you for this post. I get caught up in this and what bothers me about it is that I consider buying toys that I wouldn’t otherwise buy because they are so cheap or because everyone else is doing it.
I shopped for Black Friday, but I knew specifically what I wanted at each store and how much it was. I had cash for each purchase. Before we left the house, I told my cousin, who is a fellow couponer, do not let me use my debit card. I laughed as I said it, but she knew I was serious and I knew somebody was going to keep me accountable. I came home with nothing extra and actually had cash left over in our envelope. My husband and I will be finishing shopping next weekend when we replenish the cash envelope.
Thanks for the post. I was feeling a bit of this myself. I really wanted to do the Black Friday deals this year I have never gone before. But I skipped it because I wasn’t prepared to get just what I needed and not a bunch of stuff I would regret. I was going to try and be more organized for Cyber Monday but I wasn’t. I’m a little bumbed I didn’t get some of the things I now know I could have used, but I don’t regret spending a bunch of money on things I didn’t need and would either have to return or figure out how to stretch my budget. It’s hard when my extended family teases me for not just enjoying the season and spending what I want for everyone. But we live on one income and I have small children that I want to be able to continue to stay home with and if I overspend all the time or a lot at Chritsmas I won’t be able to do that.
judie M. says
Emily – this was a great and timely post! Thanks so much!
the other day on the radio I this guy said something like this: before you go on a crazy black friday shopping spree, think, do you remember what you got for christmas last year? do you?.
Now you may remember what you gave, do you think those you gave to would remember if asked?
On another note I got a norelco 7310 shaver from walmart on sale $27.97 used $10/1 norelco 7000 series from AllYou Dec. It has good review on amazon and not as expensive as others.
We are doing a Jesse tree this year with our son–an Advent waiting for Jesus project to help him stay focused on the reason for the season and he LOVES it:-) I finally found a free curriculum online that I like. Here’s the link in case anyone is interested: https://www.rca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=1628.
PS: Just for laughs: Last year my son looked at all his open presents and said, “Thank goodness Santa Claus has so much money cause you guys could never afford all this!”
I avoid the herd mentality by reading my friend’s post, and getting convicted. Then, like a sheep, I try to follow her suggestions!! Just kidding! Thanks for this! ( ;
I avoid the herd mentality by reading my friend’s post, and getting convicted. Then, like a sheep, I try to follow her suggestions!! Just kidding! Thanks for this!
Thank you for this post. It needed to be said and it was well said.
Advertisers (as well as our selves) are masters at getting us to forfeit our priorities for what is often much less satisfying in the end.
jeanette s. says
so true!! thanks!!
Camilla Blue says
Love the post. Sometimes I even have to take a break from all the “super deal” sites because I am tempted to buy up on things that I don’t need because it’s such a “super deal”.
I heard a great suggestion on the radio today about not getting caught up in buyIng tons of presents for everyone in your family and not having enough money to do it all…they said wha they do for their family is to buy each person 4 gifts, something they “want”, something they “need”, something to “wear” and something to “read”. I thought that sounded very nice and practical and not overwhelming.
One way to avoid the heard mentality is to do your shopping before Black Friday. I have read several articles saying items are actually at the same or lower prices than the doorbusters prior to Black Friday. I actually shop year-round and am able to do more as a result. Shop the Target July toy sale when they start making room for the Christmas items. Don’t wait for Black Friday!
Twin Mom says
Also, keep the post-Christmas sales in mind. Last year, I bought two pairs of Christmas pajamas for my twins at 83% off. In the meantime, a friend gave me a couple of used pairs and my older son outgrew his before they were worn out. I decided to donate the new with tags Mickey pajamas to our local organization that gives to foster kids and to look for comparable deals after Christmas. Pajamas and underwear are nice to get new!
Miss P says
Thank you for this, this year is especially being on a strict one income with my unemployment having run out and another baby on the way. Listening to my friends talk about their deals and amazing shopping has been hard and I’m grateful for the gentle reminder of what is needed to stay on track.
Serenity Stillwell says
Thank you. This couldn’t have come at a better time for me.
Thank you for this very timely reminder!
That’s a tough one. Especially if you have close friends or family that seem to have a larger spending budget than you do.
For Christmas this year, because we’ve done heard spending in the past, we sat down and figured out what, EXACTLY, we were willing to get the kids, what was needed and what was out of the question. Then, I got my mom to watch the kids and we went together, so it would be harder to give in to the heard and our own want-want-wants. So far we’ve stayed pretty strictly on budget and we’re doing well. Most importantly, we’re limiting what we get our children so they aren’t overwhelmed with more than they can use. Because lets face it, if I could, I’d give my children the moon and stars. My budget just isn’t that big this year.
Great Article!! I think I actually enjoy the holiday season when my Christmas budget is super tight (like $200 for 5 people). This was how it was last year, I loved having to find the best deals, but also not having enough to buy things just because they were a good deal.
I love this. I’ve really been wanting a waffle iron, and since I do ALL of the shopping in our family, I always end up buying my Christmas present from my husband as well. As I was looking for a “great deal” I got sucked in to the gorgeous shiny allclad waffle iron at Williams Sonoma. It’s $70 off! It ships for FREE! I whipped out the Amex so fast it nearly started smoking. Then last night I laid awake wondering how I was going to tell my husband that he just spent $140 on a waffle maker. How can I justify this? How is $140 a great deal on a waffle maker? I called Williams Sonoma early this morning and cancelled my order. Even shiny “great deals” are only great if you can afford them. I know I’ll sleep well tonight.
Twin Mom says
Awesome post and response. Great job.
Go Rebecca! I must admit I kept eyeing that 5′ giraffe on Amazon this past week. At one point it was $49 shipped. What a deal! It’s huge! Big wow factor under the tree and I admit I was sort of impressed my postman would carry a 5′ giraffe to my door. How cool is that! ? I bet the box would be HUGE too. The kids would like the box as well! (Admittedly, no kids in the family are at the right appropriate age to justify a large giraffe).
In any case, I didn’t feel like having the, “Honey, I just bought a huge giraffe because it was on sale!” speech. It’s a good thing we have husbands, eh, Rebecca?
I’m new to these boards. I’m new to the deals. I like feeling I am wise with my money. However, I do sometimes spend too much time here, too much time in the store, and often pick up things I don’t need. I’m kicking myself for two voucher deals I bought this week that were unwise and unneeded. Sure they were ‘only’ $13 at a time… and ‘maybe’ I’ll get them for free if my friends buy…. but it is unwise and wasteful.
I almost bought that giraffe, too! I also wondered where it would go when the newness wore off, and how soon would it be before it ended up in the Goodwill pile. And of course, I didn’t want that conversation either. So we’re a pancake eating, giraffe-less family this Christmas. I’m sure we’ll live 😉
It’s probably because we never got cool pancakes and large giraffes as children that we want them now. 😉
Sandy R says
I totally agree with your perspective. Thank you for the reminder, me and my family need to keep that in mind throughout the whole year. Especially on a 1 income budget.
LOVE THIS POST!!! My husband and I got so caught up in buying presents for our 4 year old last year who finally grasped Santa (yay!) He is our oldest and we were so excited. We realized 1 or 2 gifts would have kept him busy and VERY happy. He ended up overwhelmed and didn’t know what to play with. In the end, the $10 dinosaur and a $5 truck, was all he really wanted.
Instead of buying 20 things he would like, we agreed on 2 he will love! We decided to spend the rest of our money on a family in need. We have already started shopping for the other family and he truly LOVES it! Win win situation, He will still have a great christmas and he will learn the importance of thinking about others.
My son is 12 & I realized practically speaking there is a very limited amount of items he can actually use at one time-the rest is just clutter! We tend to focus more on spending our money on activities we can do together as a family & like you Dani I like best to help those in need at Christmas-we have always done this as a family also & is my preferred focus for my time.
Sometimes I feel a little cheap when our friends tell me what they got for Christmas -or what they bought their kids as we don’t come anywhere near in comparison but really I can’t see that their lives are any better for it-so I don’t worry too much about that!
LOVE the reminders! This was a well thought out and eye opening article:)
Krista S. says
Wow! Thank you for that reminder! It is so easy to get caught up in all the deals that literally come at you every moment while you are on the interent. My solution – step away from my computer . . . slowly now . . . and focus on making memories and traditions with my boys, not the number of presents I can get for a “good deal” to put under the tree.