Holiday shopping is here. How do you C.U.?
I see me at this time last year selling shoes at a high-end retailer in a large mall, and I really can’t be more thankful for my situation this holiday season. I graduated college in May, started a full-time marketing position with an awesome company, and best of all: I don’t have to work retail this holiday season. Don’t get me wrong-I loved that job (and the great discount), but consumer spending patterns around the holidays are enough to make your head spin.
During the three years I worked retail, I suffered through 12+ hours on Black Friday and missed precious family time on Christmas Eve. Even worse: every shift, I would spend at least an hour of pay on coffee and food to keep myself going, but that’s a topic for another day. What never failed to surprise me was the sheer number of shoppers that inevitably rushed through the mall 15 minutes before close on Christmas Eve. From a sales perspective, this was great! These shoppers always spent a lot of money, helping us reach our goals for the day. But each time one would hand me that shiny piece of plastic, I felt a mix of emotions.
On one hand, I felt no compassion for last-minute shoppers. “They should have shopped a month ago, they should have bought one of the 10 sale items I pointed out, they should have stuck to their budget!” On the other, I felt sad. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to over-spending for loved ones. Would these shoppers have spent less had they shopped a month ago? Probably, yes. But would they still have crept past their budget? Again, most likely.
Everyone has a different money story with unique challenges to overcome. Part of reaching financial freedom is making choices and often sacrifices for what we value. I believe that it’s okay to splurge during the holidays if I’ve spent the rest of the year being frugal, but it’s not okay to amass debt to inflate my lifestyle. And, as in many matters in life, a little preparation goes a long way.
For instance, instead of heading to your favorite retailer without a game plan, I shop around online first for items I can afford so I don’t fall prey to sales techniques. Or, instead of flashing a shiny black credit card with a 15% interest rate and high annual fees, I opted for a more affordable card with great rewards.
This holiday season, challenge yourself to think about what you value and how you see this translating into your financial life. And, as a side note: do something nice for a retail employee at your favorite store. Those folks handle a lot this time of year!
Tell us: Do you see yourself being true to your long-term goals, or are you enjoying living in the moment more? How do you “C.U.?”