Buying Because of Holiday Cheer? Think again.


We all sweat it every year—the pressure to express love for family and friends with our wallets. But too often we blame this pressure on our materialist culture and look past another culprit for holiday overspending: sneaky retailers.

And boy are they good at getting us to spend. The National Retail Federation’s newest Consumer Spending Survey found the average person will spend a total of $804.42 this holiday season, a 5 percent increase over last year.

Retailers know the psychology of spending and how to use it. Here are some examples to look out for:

1. We’re slaves to our senses. Did you know you’re likely to tip a server 14 to 26 percent more than usual if they’re wearing red? And you thought it was just Christmas cheer.

2. Beware bargain words. Retailers use motivating language like “limited,” “new,” “improved,” and “free” to make you feel like you’re getting more value for your money. Check yourself the next time you’re grabbing for a “sale” item. Is it even on your gift list?

3. Stores are mazes—we’re the mice. Ever fear you might not escape IKEA alive? Many stores are designed like mazes to ensure you walk past all their items. The next time you walk into a department store, ask an associate to direct you to the gift you’re looking for.

Shopping and gift giving is super fun this time of year. But by planning ahead and becoming more aware of your in-store surroundings, you’ll be able to fight the pressure to overspend and keep your financial momentum going into the New Year.