Tuesday, December 20, 2011

T is for THINK Before Buying Season

Four questions to ask yourself before you take the holiday spending plunge:

This year’s Black Friday retail success is fascinating. It’s a wonder how millions of consumers around the country who have reduced their shopping habits to focus on paying down debts have also caused retailers like Walmart and Target to be sold out of the bulk of their inventory by Black Friday! According to data released this week by the National Retail Federation, shoppers bought more electronics like televisions, tablets, and video games already.

I love the holiday spirit but I feel we Americans get so taken by the spirit of gift-giving which drives the excessive consumerism we are so infamous for, especially during uneasy economic times. While smart spending is a year-round strategy, especially the idea of staying away from unnecessary expenses, it is even more so valid for holiday season. This time of the year is a great time to consciously prioritize and analyze buying habits. Here are 4 questions to ask yourself before you jump into “buy” mode:

Do I Really Need It?
We all get sucked into looking for or buying items but the holiday retail mania makes that so much easier to fall for. Ask yourself routinely prior to a purchase: Do I/we really need it? I even ask my teen sister this question all the time so that she also gets into the same habit early and feels a need to evaluate buying decisions.

Am I Taking Care of Myself?
The “Do I need it?”question is a gateway to more analysis. One question to follow up on after the need versus want is determined, is the clear ability to know if there is any place for an extra expense that is a splurge. Are the bills paid off? Am I saving enough? At all times, such priorities should be foremost—perhaps writing them down sounds silly but it can help. Priorities such as paying down credit card debt should be immediate because such debt is expensive and tends to have a snowball effect.

Is It Really Necessary?
Shopping for an absolute necessity is usually a no brainer. But the list of necessities is rather large these days. Food, utilities, auto insurance, rent/mortgage and transportation expenses are the most basic, not to mention many more. So if your necessities are taking away most of the paycheck, it’s even more important to learn some patience, take those deep breaths and learn to fight the urge to spend beyond your means. Everyone has their individual means to work and balance. So if there is no emergency to buy, shop around and consider used items to save a significant amount of money. Waiting to make that decision will save a lot of money.

Can It Wait?
Because of the current seasonal influence, a lot of people get carried away with buying things that can be waited on and perhaps obtained at a better price at a later time. So even if you can afford to make the purchase, you might save more by holding off until a later date. I recommend taking the time to comparison shop so you can discover the best time and place to purchase the product you need.

Last but not least, it is incredibly important to think about what consumerism means to you individually. Think of all the things you have that are not being used. Such an exercise should motivate all of us to donate and/or sell items that we don’t need thereby giving more to the needy as well during this season. And most of all, let’s not forget to be thankful for what we have in our lives rather than what we don’t.


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