78% of Consumers Make This Holiday Shopping Mistake. Don’t Be One of Them

Emi Martinez of Bogota, Colombia shops on Black Friday on Nov. 25, 2016 at International Plaza Mall in Tampa, Fla. Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder

A shopping hangover is almost as bad as a real, alcohol-induced one.

I avoid stepping into a mall during the holidays because everything is cast in this glittery, “come and buy me” light.

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

It’s the moment; I totally get carried away.

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

And it’s not just overspending by $10. We’re talking about an average of $215.

That, my spending friends, is quite sobering.

Why Holiday Shoppers Might Be Overspending

Surprisingly, 52% of the respondents said they do create a holiday spending budget. But why do only 70% of those folks stick to it?

Here are some main bank-draining factors:

  • 65% focus on finding the *perfect* gift
  • 57% get caught up on small impulse purchases that add up (think: stocking stuffers)
  • 49% follow the “one for you, one for me” strategy and treat themselves
  • 25% are wrapped up in incidentals, like wrapping paper and gift cards

But I have to toast my fellow millennials out there. Unlike me, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, 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

No one wants a shopping hangover; we’ll save the hangovers for New Year’s Day.

So we have some tips to help you avoid overspending this holiday season.

1. Create a holiday spending budget.


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Yeah, yeah. Of those who make the budgets, 30% 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 eight 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.

The TD 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.


People shop on Black Friday on November 25, 2016 at International Plaza Mall in Tampa, Fla. Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder

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 if whatever it is is worth the spluge, use our “should you buy this” flowchart. We made it for Black Friday, but it’ll be 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 just 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 the mall entirely. Instead, make a present.

Handmade presents always mean more to me anyways. We found a list of 99 inexpensive DIY gifts.

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 65% of you out there!)

Instead, consider this statistic: More than 22% said the giver made the present a favorite — not the gift itself.

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

Your Turn: What are your favorite ways to save during the holiday shopping frenzy?

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with her parents.

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