Tame Impulsive Buying During the Holidays

At the end of December, people may be seeing red—and not just because of Santa overload and Kwanzaa celebrations. The National Retail Federation estimates Americans will spend $655.8 billion at retail shops during the holiday season, a 3.6 percent increase from last year.

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Impulse buyers, beware. The science behind the impulsive buying, which 90 percent of people copped to partaking in at least occasionally in 2014 according to marketing website brandongaille.com, could not be more important than during the holiday season. How does impulse buying happen and what can you do to control it?

First, understand there is a key difference between splurging money last minute because it’s Christmas Eve and you’re in a rush. A contrasting point between compulsive buyers and normal consumers is that the focus and excitement is not on the item bought but instead on the buying process itself. Those who suffer from oniomania (compulsive buying) are thrilled with the idea of going to the store, looking at products and become overly excited by the idea of spending as much money as they can afford. It’s almost like shopping creates some sort of a “high” which can understandably turn out to be quite a distressing and expensive habit. Psychiatrists often categorize this habit as a form of addiction.

Though there is a difference between the procrastinator and impulsive shopper, both types can benefit from thinking ahead. Chances are, when you’re reading this post, you probably didn’t buy this year’s Christmas presents back on July 4 weekend sales and you most likely haven’t even bought most of your presents yet. This is quite normal, but the truth is that allocating money for present shopping earlier in the year significantly reduces holiday stress and last minute splurging. In more recent years, many economics statistics show that holiday sales are not as generous as they used to be. Thinking about presents in advance automatically trains your mind to be on the lookout for more reasonable sales and offers throughout the year, instead of deferring the responsibility to the month of December.

For next year, try to envision a holiday season without the last minute chaos of finding gifts and splurging on items you potentially could find for more reasonable prices throughout the calendar year.

dr. uruj kamal

dr. uruj kamal

Dr. Uruj Kamal is a third year resident in Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center-University of Massachusetts Medical School. A Stony Brook native, she enjoys combining her knowledge of mental health with healthy living. Dr. Kamal has a special interest in outpatient adult psychiatry.