‘Tis the season for merriment, for joy, for finding connection with loved ones near and far. ‘Tis also the season for good times, good cheer, and sometimes overindulgence. So in a season of giving when you feel like there’s tremendous obligation how do you find balance with the you in January?
Think it Through Beforehand
One of the most important things I focus on when I work with anyone, is understanding their decision making. The more we understand about our brain the more complicated we discover it is. One of the biggest challenges we face when we want to do things differently is that our brains like following patterns and routines.
Our brains experience pain when we think things through. Our brains avoid experiencing that pain, so they fall back on what we’ve always done. It’s why changing a habit is so hard and requires repetition because you need to break the pattern. As we’re facing some difficult economic realities this year, you might be worried about setting a budget and keeping to it. Recognizing that you not only need to set a budget, but refer back to it. Spend some time thinking through how you’ll stick to a budget. If you’re going to be spending money, spend with purpose and intention.
Buying gifts, and taking care of the errands that go into making your season special takes a large mental toll. It’s made up of hundreds of tiny little decisions, and each choice makes it a little harder to make the next choice in a thoughtful way.
Spend some time before you’re out the door to make those decisions in a calm environment, so when you’re out in the hustle and bustle you’re not trying to think things through amongst the noise and chaos of a busy store.
There’s a Lot Working Against You
There’s a lot of psychology that goes into retailing, and stores (both physical and digital) are designed to make it easier to spend money, and harder to keep a clear head. This is why it’s so important to go in with a clear game plan before you enter those spaces. From impulse buys, to warm temperatures, loud music, and just the general stress that comes from busy crowds there’s a lot of noise for your brain to parse.
Shopping can wear down your willpower, and make it harder for you to resist those little purchases that end up adding up, and don’t really matter. I’m a big proponent of getting value out of the money you spend. It’s not always about just spending less, it’s about using your money in an intentional way. Using your holiday funds in a thoughtful way so that you’re getting the most out of every dollar.
Do your Research
When is a sale, a sale? The earlier you do your holiday planning the better an idea you’ll have of sales and deals you run into. Especially if you’re making a big purchase, you should keep in mind that not every sale is built the same, some prices get raised just in time for those deep discounts, and the price from a week ago might not actually be that different. The more time you give yourself for those big spends, the more information you’re giving yourself to make sure you’re getting the best from every dollar.
Find the Balance
This time of year is often a time for indulgence and letting loose. It might seem silly, but prepare to not have to plan. What I mean by that is make sure any budgeting or planning you do isn’t so tight that there’s no room for error. Part of feeling financially empowered comes from not needing to worry about every single dollar and having some wiggle room. Give yourself some breathing space and then those little snap decisions can happen and you don’t need to stress about them. Folks often know the term penny wise, but it’s part of a larger proverb, which is penny-wise and Pound foolish. It means worrying too much about the small things and forgetting about the bigger picture.
Coming into January with a good feeling is a big picture play, you need to look after the small decisions but keeping a view of your overall finances will help put the little decisions into perspective. Until next month, I hope you find time to rest, relax, and recharge and enjoy everything this season offers!
Laura Whiteland is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® and Chartered Investment Manager® Professional, she is the owner of Inclusive Financial Planning, a fee-only financial planner.
This article is intended as general financial information and should not be construed as personalized financial advice. You can find other article by Laura here!