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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