Taming Impulsive Spending During the Holidays

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Impulsive spending can be a problem all year long. But during the holiday season, it can undo family budgets and cause financial catastrophes. Although normally I am not an impulsive spender, I have to admit, I don't always know when to stop when it comes to Christmas gifts. I tend to keep buying, way past the limits I have set. This year, I have high hopes of controlling my spending and staying within the family holiday budget. (Now, if I can only get my husband to do the same, we'll be alright, he, unfortunately, is worse than me when it comes to impulsive spending.)


    Impulsive or compulsive shopping not only creates financial problems, but can increase anxiety and depression. Many people that are impulsive shoppers are ashamed, they keep their spending habits secret, may lie about where they have been or how much they have spent. The shame and embarrassment they feel can cut into their feelings of self-worth and ruin relationships. For those with chronic compulsive shopping problems, you may want to talk with your doctor or therapist and find out what type of help is available.

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     Below are tips to help you keep your spending under control this holiday season. As always, some of the tips may work for you, others may not. Experiment with different methods to find out what works best for your situation.


    1)      Understand your spending habits. Do you continually use your credit card, maxing it out but not being able to afford even the minimum payments? Do you obsessively worry about money, yet continue to spend? Do you purchase items you never use or never wear, but still continue to buy another shirt, another pair of shoes? Knowing how you spend money and where your weaknesses are can help you to overcome out of control impulsive spending.

    2)      Explore the reasons you love to shop. What is it about shopping you can't resist? Is it the thrill of the hunt for the best bargain? Is it an obsession with a certain item, such as shoes? Is it a way of self-medicating? Is it the need for constant stimulus? Understanding your reasons for shopping can help you find replacement activities that will fill the need, without spending money.

    3)      Write a gift list. I keep a list for each person on an envelope, along with the total amount to spend. Once a buy an item, I write it on the front of the envelope and place the receipt inside the envelope.

    4)      Always shop with someone else. Bring along someone who will help keep you focused and will remind you to stay within your budget.

    5)      Bring the amount of cash you want to spend with you and keep all credit cards/debit cards at home. This way you can only spend a certain amount of money.

    6)      Examine your history of shopping. Do you impulse buy more if you are shopping online or through catalogues or do you impulse buy walking through the stores. If you impulse buy walking through stores, shop online only, with a list in front of you. If you surf the net or go crazy on ebay, stay away from online shopping or set up your computer to block certain shopping sites and shop only in stores.

  • 7)      Use credit cards only if you will be paying off the balance at the end of the month. Interest rates are extremely high on credit cards and you could end up paying twice as much for an item if you include monthly fees and charges. If you already have balances on your credit card, start paying the minimum payment plus an extra amount, such as $25.00 extra each month to begin reducing your debt.

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    8)      Some experts suggest putting your credit cards in a bowl of water and freezing them. This means you can't use the card without first thawing it out, giving you time to decide if you really want the item or if it is an impulsive buy. Sometimes, just a few extra minutes can make you hesitate and think about your purchase.

    9)      Go shopping and leave your wallet at home. Make a list of the items you want to buy and what store each item is in. When you come back with your wallet you will know exactly what you want to buy and may be more apt to stick to your list.

    10)  Keep the tags on the items you purchase and keep receipts in one place. That way, should you make impulsive decisions and regret it later, you can return the item without much hassle.


    Of course, the most important tip is: if your impulsive spending is a product of your untreated ADHD, seek medical treatment, use behavioral strategies or enlist the help of an ADHD coach to get symptoms of ADHD under control.


    You might also be interested in:


    Creating a Simple Budget


    Learning to Live With ADHD


     How ADHD Symptoms Manifest in Adults


    When to See a Doctor About ADHD


    Behavior Modification for Adults


Published On: November 27, 2009