Holiday Spending: What You Need to Know Before Shopping

Give yourself the gift of smart holiday spending

Throw down your Pumpkin Spiced Latte, ladies, the holiday shopping season is here! (Oh, thank goodness!)

Oh, wait, it has been here for a while.  Did you know that Kmart, Walmart, Target, and Toys ‘R’ Us started advertising for the holidays in roughly September?

These clever companies have been using their marketing tactics, such as the season’s Hottest Toys list, to try and reach in your beautiful handbag for months now.

For these companies, the competition is fierce and they want every consumer dollar possible.  Otherwise, why would Target have started extended hours before summer even ended?  Walmart is opening every register throughout the holidays to prevent you from being trampled for a big screen TV.

I promise my sarcasm will end, but I want all of you strong ladies to understand how responsible giving will help you in the long run.

What are You Willing to Spend?

Im on a budget

Gift budgeting is imperative.  Whether you budget on a per-person basis, or determine a lump sum of money that will be applied to all of those special people on your list, you have to pre-plan before you hit the stores.

I firmly believe that you should have a “gifts” category in your budget year-round.  This allows you to account for every single dollar you spend.  Additionally, it prevents you from stealing money from another category to cover gift giving, which can throw off your budget.

When determining how much to spend on gifts, you need to consider the items that must be funded or paid for first.  You must cover your most basic needs, such as your mortgage or rent, utilities, food, and any miscellaneous loans that you may have.

However, on top of the basics, you must keep funding your emergency fund (savings), and contributing to your retirement savings, especially if your employer is matching your contributions.

Bottom line: The amount of excess cash that you have after paying for your needs and contributing to your future is how much you can spend on others.

Please, be honest with yourself this season. Give the previously mentioned budget items your thorough consideration.  If you find that you are falling short in any of these categories, perhaps gift giving may be extremely limited or non-existent this year.  It is far more important for each of you to invest in YOURSELF!

Cash Is King

cash and wallet

With your budget in mind, you are only to take cash to the stores.  Do not, under any circumstances, take your credit card.  It is just too tempting to say “My budget for Grandma was fifty dollars and this is just seventy-five, so I will ‘charge it.’”  If you start this behavior, you will most likely allow it to continue, especially when you see cute boots at Michael Kors (my personal favorite).

Come on Down!  You are the Next Contestant on The Pricing Game!


I love the pricing game.  It makes you feel like you are on a game show and you need to cut through the marketing confusion to see what is the true “best deal”.  I would like to share a few pricing strategies that I have learned about during my graduate school experience.

  1. If there are two very similar products, they will never be priced the same. There needs to be some differentiation in price.  The difference in price does call upon consumers to act versus keeping the money in their wallet.  Generally, we choose the one that is slightly higher priced, due to a perceived sense of value.  The value may only be in our head!  Neuroscience, baby, it is all neuroscience.
  2. Consumers never seem to notice a ten percent change. Therefore, it is not impossible to think that a store may mark the price up ten percent and then advertise a sale!  They don’t tell you the initial price, nor do they really specify the percentage discount.
  3. Bundling, a small fee, and reframing the value are all ways marketers know can open your wallet. It is so much easier to sell you the Lexus with the red bow on top when they bundle heated seats, a six-disc CD changer, and a navigation system, versus saying you have to buy options A, B, and C.  It is also easier to get your money when marketers say “For a small monthly fee of fourteen dollars, you can get one book on your Audible account per month”.  It’s easier for you the consumer to digest fourteen dollars a month versus $168.00 per year.

While we’re on pricing, surprise surprise: According to an article by Brad Tuttle on, Black Friday does not always carry the best deals. They may be slightly better than those you can get in October, but the best prices can be found after Thanksgiving weekend.

Remember, Black Friday is not designed for shoppers to save money.  In many instances, retailers are operating at a loss until this magical day comes around and moves them from the red (negative in accounting terms) and into the black.  With this in mind, retailers want to give shoppers a sense of urgency to score the biggest deals.  They start early and target market often.  Their business depends on it!

The Takeaway

I really encourage women to pre-plan their spending.  The holidays should not be a time when we are struggling, nor should it be a time where we spend money that we do not have.

Think about the gifts that you received last year from the ones you love.  Can you remember every gift?  I bet you can’t, and neither can your loved ones.

It is not about what you give to others.  It is about the time you give and the love you share.  Who needs the buyer’s remorse in January, anyway?

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