76% of Consumers Make This Holiday Shopping Mistake. Don’t Be One of Them

Closeup of couple crossing the street with shopping bags at sunset
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A shopping hangover is almost as bad as a real, alcohol-induced one.

I avoid malls altogether during the holidays, because everything is cast in that glittery, “come and buy me” light.

And too often, I get carried away buying presents for friends and family. Why does my best friend need a $25 pair of socks? Why does my mom need a $30 candle? It’s going to melt away by the end of the month.

I’m not the only one. More than three-quarters of consumers overspend on holiday purchases, according to TD Bank’s 2017 Merry Money Survey.

And it’s not just overspending by $10. We’re talking about an average of $263 more than expected.

That, my spending friends, is quite sobering.

Why Holiday Shoppers Might Be Overspending

Surprisingly, more than half of the respondents said they do create a holiday spending budget. But why do 76% of those folks still overspend?

Here are some of the main bank-draining factors:

  • 71% spent more on gifts than expected.
  • 57% bought gifts that weren’t on their list (think: stocking stuffers).
  • 41% followed the “one for you, one for me” strategy and treated themselves.

But I have to toast my fellow millennials out there. Unlike Gen Xers and baby boomers (and me), millennials are more likely to create a budget and stick to it. In fact, they actually spend less during the holidays.

How to Avoid Overspending During the Holidays

Save the hangovers for New Year’s Day.

We have some tips to help you avoid overspending when you’re holiday shopping.

1. Create a Holiday Shopping Budget

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Yeah, yeah. Of those who make the budgets, tons of us totally blow it. (If that’s you, see all of the safety nets below.)

However, if you haven’t created a holiday spending budget before now, do it. It should only take about an hour, and you can use this super-duper easy worksheet we made for you.

Before diving into it, we outlined seven tips to review before budgeting.

2. Be Wary of the Plastic

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Cash is a great way to keep you accountable. When I keep it on hand, I can see my money leaving my wallet, so the feeling of panic might quell my shopping high.

TD Bank’s 2016 survey found 61% of holiday shoppers use credit cards — especially for purchases more than $20. Another 55% use debit cards.

Although this might help you earn some rewards points, consider holding yourself accountable with that cold hard cash.

3. Do. Not. Shop. For. Yourself.

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If your friends are nice enough, you’ll get some goodies for the holidays, too, so there’s no need to buy for yourself.

Yes, I’m totally guilty. If I come across something on sale, I can’t help myself.

If you need help deciding whether something is worth the splurge, use our “should you buy this” flowchart. It’s great for holiday shopping, but I keep it saved on my phone year-round.

4. Don’t Forget the Wrapping Paper

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In my family, wrapping paper is an afterthought. We usually rush to CVS or Target on Christmas Eve hoping to find some because, well, we were totally wrapped up (pun intended) in the gifts.

However, there are plenty of ways to get around those way-too-expensive rolls of tacky wrapping paper. Consider, for example, printing your own.

Also something to consider: Does Santa have to wrap all the presents? In fact, I never knew he was supposed to wrap presents. I grew up running into our family room wide-eyed at the open gifts. It was exciting and immediate.

So don’t feel obligated, Santa.

5. Are Stockings Necessary?

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Think about it: Do you really need anything that comes in your stocking? Aside from maybe that new toothbrush you get each year…

Don’t stuff stockings with unnecessary trinkets because you feel like you have to. Sure, it might be a tradition, but stick to the essentials instead.

6. Get Crafty

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Your best bet might be to ditch holiday shopping entirely. Instead, make a present.

Handmade presents always mean more to me anyway. Check out these 12 DIY Christmas gift ideas for a few you can make yourself.

7. Remember: It’s the Thought That Counts

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Don’t worry so much about overspending for that *perfect* present. (Cough, cough: There’s 71% of you out there!)

Instead, consider this statistic: Only 48% prefer to receive purchased gifts.

Some people don’t actually have cold, hard consumer hearts.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Read her full bio here.