How to Be Money Mindful around Christmas

There are sales galore this time of year, likely inciting some sense of urgency in you to buy and take advantage of the sales. I’m here to tell you it’s OK to slow down and it’s OK to miss out on good deals! 

Below are some common thoughts people have around shopping along with a new thought you can replace it with!

Thought: I don’t want to miss out on the awesome sale at Store XYZ.

Replace with: It’s OK if I don’t take advantage of this sale. It’s OK if I don’t peruse the aisles or the online store. I’m not missing out on anything that will make me happy or holy long-term.

On my way to work, I often walk past a large department store with a “Closeout Sale” sign boasting 70-90% off everything in the store. It’s tempting, but I haven’t set foot inside (and don’t plan to) because I know myself. I know that I could walk into that store not needing anything and come out with lots of stuff that were “a good deal.” If I buy a blouse for $10 that was originally $100, I’d be saving 90%. But if I didn’t really LOVE the blouse or didn’t even need/want one and bought it only because it was on a crazy sale, did I really save $90? Or did I just spend $10?

It’s OK if you don’t go into that store with “amazing deals.” I promise that anything in that store will be on sale again at some other time and there’s really no urgency. The marketers want you to think you “must act now” – so don’t forget their main interest is in their bottom line, not in your happiness or holiness. They want you to think they’re selling happiness, but we all know that “stuff” doesn’t make us happy long-term. Just remind yourself that it’s OK to feel tempted by these sales – the marketers have it down to a science because they study how people think! Tell yourself, “It’s OK that I’m feel the urgency to spend at Store XYZ. I know that’s a normal reaction, but I’m not going to play into it.”

Thought: I need to save as much money as possible, so I need to spend hours searching the best deals both in store and online.

Replace with: I don’t need to spend my precious time scouring deals. If I find a price that’s within my budget, I can just go with that.

If you’re trying to save money, it seems like it would make sense to comparison shop. I agree, but only to a certain extent. The bigger the purchase, the more time you should spend comparing prices from different places (like for a refrigerator or a television). But if you’re spending more than 10 minutes trying to find a good deal on a $20-$50 gift, that’s too much. (Multiply this by all the gifts you’re planning to buy and you can see how it adds up.) Your precious time could be better spent with family or doing other things to prepare for Christmas.

The reality is that just because you spend more time searching for a better deal doesn’t mean you’ll find one – and if you do, it likely won’t be significantly cheaper than all the other places. Ask yourself: is it worth it to you to spend 20 minutes to save $X more? Identify the savings amount/percentage that you think would be worth spending time searching for and when you’ll stop if you don’t find it. Another tip: Once you buy something, don’t keep shopping for it! Accept the price you bought it for.

Thought: There will never be a sale like this again.

Replace with: Yes. Yes, there will. (And it will probably be billed again as “there’s never been a sale like this before.”)

Recently, I was at a car dealership with my grandpa, and as we were waiting for the sales associate, I noticed a quote on his desk. It said something along the lines of, “The car you saw today and want to think about until tomorrow will be sold to the person who saw it yesterday and thought about it until today.” If that wasn’t a ploy to get people to sign on the dotted line ASAP, I don’t know what is!

If you believe what’s for you won’t pass you, then you can take comfort in the fact that if that car or purse or whatever is sold before you got to buy it, you’ll be just fine. There are millions of cars, accessories, and clothes out there. There is no shortage. That stuff doesn’t get you to heaven anyway!

Thought: Everyone is getting their son/daughter Toy X, so I have to as well, even if it’s outside of our budget.

Replace with: We don’t need to buy Toy X just because everyone else is. If we decide that it’s a good gift that our son/daughter will enjoy, then we can talk about making adjustments to our budget.

When I took an entrepreneurship class in college, I learned about “Pet Rock” – which used to be all the rage in the 1970s. Whoever can turn a rock and a cardboard box into a million-dollar business is obviously sales-savvy. The success around Pet Rock was partly due to the fact that “everyone” wanted one. People end up paying a decent amount of money for something that has very low value when everyone jumps on the bandwagon. (The creator of “Pet Rock” once said in the late 1980s: “Sometimes I look back and wonder if my life wouldn’t have been simpler if I hadn’t done it.”)

Not all “fad toys” are like Pet Rocks. There are plenty of awesome, wholesome toys for kids. So, ask yourself if you’re buying a gift because of yourself or because of your child. Are you trying to keep up with the Joneses? If so, how will this affect what you budgeted to spend on gifts? What does your child want? What do you think is best for them?

Be Intentional

I find a lot of peace in making a list of the people I’m buying for, so that when I shop, I’m intentional about it. If I see something “cute,” I ask myself if there’s anyone on my list who would like it – myself included – or if it can be used as part of a White Elephant gift exchange. It’s OK to buy something for yourself even when you’re out buying for others. In fact, if you’ve been eyeing something for a while and you just found out it’s on sale, why not go for it? We get in trouble only when we mindlessly buy things.

If you’re shopping online and you’re unsure about buying a particular item for yourself or others, put the item in your cart and wait 24 hours. See if you want it the next day. Your feelings about it may have changed.

My hope for you is that you can stress less about all the sales and the shopping this year. It’ll open you up to focus more fully on the reason for the season: Jesus Christ. Your love, attention and time is truly the best gift you can give others. People will remember the memories they share with you more than the stuff they got.