How to Avoid Post-Holiday Headaches

November 27, 2012
By Lila Quintiliani, AFC®
Military Saves Assistant Coordinator

This past weekend as I sat at home watching scenes of Black Friday shopping mayhem unfold on television in between endless commercials; I couldn’t help but think of a routine the late comedian George Carlin used to do called “Stuff.”  In it he used to poke fun at Americans and their obsession with acquiring things.  According to Carlin, our homes are just piles of stuff with covers on them.  Houses, he claimed, are places to keep your stuff while you go out and get even more stuff.  But as I watched all the ads encouraging me to rush out and buy “stuff,” I actually got the urge to do the opposite.

We are a military family, so we move a lot.  In fact, we are awaiting orders to move yet again.  Every time I have to unpack, I curse all the “stuff” we have accumulated and I say that next time I will do better.  Yet each time we move we have ended up with a larger house, in part because we have so much STUFF.

But I don’t know if this is a natural human instinct so much as a retailer-created need. Holidays should be about something other than buying things. Yes, I have young kids, and yes, they will get something from us.  But this year I didn’t do any Black Friday shopping.  I am stepping back, giving less “junk” and concentrating more on the holiday experience.  I would rather decorate cookies with the girls than wrap a bunch of presents they don’t truly need.  I would rather drink hot chocolate and watch a holiday movie next to the fireplace than wait in a line at the mall.

So here’s my holiday-themed savings advice:

Make a List (Set a Goal) – If you have to buy “stuff,” do it thoughtfully.  Sure you feel accomplished when you score the latest “hot toy” or “must buy”, but is it something that will get used or is truly needed?  I am remembering the last time Furbies were in fashion, when my parents rushed to buy them for my young niece and nephew only to have the toys sitting in the corner (and crying out for attention!) mere hours after they had been opened.

Check it Twice (Make a Plan) – Determine what you truly “need” and must buy and then when you go shopping stick to that list.  Don’t be tempted by retailers who offer add-ons or “buy one get one half off” offers.  If you don’t need it, don’t buy it!

Make Your Holiday Nice (Not Naughty) - Hopefully by following these first two tips, you will have saved yourself some heartache when you open those credit card bills after the New Year.  And then you can move on to the third step, where you make your savings plan automatic.  If you haven’t done this in the past, make your own version of an old-fashioned “savings club” account by taking the amount you spent on gifts this year, dividing it by 12, and putting that amount into a designated account each month.  By the time the holiday shopping season rolls around next year, you’ll have already paid for all of your gifts.

Or, you can do what I’m doing and just buy less STUFF.

For more tips on saving money during the holidays:
5 Tips for Saving Money Before the Holidays
Saving Money During the Holidays
Should I Layaway for the Holidays?
Saving for the Holiday Season: No Time Like the Present!

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