As a financial literacy educator, I begin each and every class I teach with a statement that I repeat throughout the lesson with the emphasis on a different word.
“Everybody wants your money. Everybody wants your money. Everybody wants your money.”
It’s usually when I
emphasize the word “your” that eyes light up and there are a few nods of
understanding. The previous statement is only part of the truth and the other
half is just as important.
“You have complete choice and autonomy over who gets your money.”
And while I know the previous statements are true, we can all succumb to the
slashed price sign; the puppy shivering in the snow (my personal weakness); the happy families on a cruise ship; the mile-wide smile when you open a package delivered to your door. None of these things are bad but holiday advertising, in particular, is working to bypass your head, go around your resolve to stick to a budget, and aim straight for your generous heart. No one wants to be Ebenezer Scrooge but advertisers tell you that’s exactly who you’ll become if you don’t get that certain product for your nice neighbor or don’t give something every time you pass a red kettle. This is where calm logic and planning must take the reins of your wallet against the gentle (read “arm-twisting”) nudging (read “coercive headlock”) of holiday advertising. (Did I mention that everybody wants your money?)
You have been digitally studied like a new species; algorithms chase you into cyber alleys to get your credit card number; websites you’ve never heard of sweet talk you like you’re on a first date. What do you do?! It’s possible to protect your money from holiday advertising, but it’ll take some work and diligence to spend your money wisely with so much temptation coming your way.
4 Ways to Protect Your Money from Holiday Advertising
- Know Your Money Habits: It takes a lot money for advertisers to learn the habits of consumers. Notice I used the word “habit”—a behavior that is repeated until it can be done without too much thought. Know yourself as well as the advertisers know you. Make a list of the times when you have spent money without thought. You can learn about your spending triggers in less time than it would take you to watch an episode of The Crown…I promise. This is a critical first step because your money habits are an extension of YOU!
- Learn to Wait: Before you checkout in a physical or online store…wait. YES…WAIT. In a brick and mortar store, take a few laps around the perimeter and breathe deeply. STOP, assess your cart and decide if the purchases are on your list and within your budget, or just a temporary high to make you feel good in the moment. I love music and certain holiday songs put me in a good mood and that’s when I tend to load up my cart mindlessly. When I stop and breathe, I make more sensible money decisions and I’ve actually put back items that I was going to buy out of mindless habit.
- Avoid Temptation: If beautifully decorated stores and other happy shoppers are too much of a trigger to overspend, try to buy all your holiday items online. Have your list ready, check multiple websites for competitive prices and sit for 30 minutes before you hit the checkout button. Reward yourself by soaking up festivities by going to a celebration, or even to the mall. Just leave your credit and debit card at home when you do.
- Return Purchases You Don’t Need: Keep all of your receipts and put the items you’ve bought in a place where you can evaluate them for a day or two. If you wrap items right away, it’ll be too easy to see them as gifts and not goods. A restful night’s sleep can help clear the cobwebs and the receipts will allow you to return any unwise purchases.
Follow these steps to protect your money from holiday advertising and your post-holiday season will be merry and bright and your wallet will be as plump as Bob Cratchit’s goose.
The team at CESI is committed to helping you make wise financial decisions and to helping you understand how to get out, and stay out of debt during the holiday season, and all year long. For a free debt analysis, contact us and find out how we can help.