Money Matters

Holiday Shopping: Spend Less, Enjoy Life More

Two months before Christmas, the National Retail Federation predicts 3.7% uptick in holiday spending. But at the same time consumers report a big decline in financial security in part because many people are struggling with too much debt. With consumer debt topping a record $3.47 trillion, we can all use practical advice for reining in spending.

Pamela Yellen, financial security expert and bestselling author, offers seven strategies to help people spend less and enjoy life more this holiday season.

Get Clear About Wants vs. Needs – Advertisers would have us believe that we “need” lots of things, from the latest techno-gadget to that trendy new shoe. They tell us that we’re not sexy/successful/cool without what they’re selling. What do we really need? Stop and think about it and get clarity for yourself.

Break the Spell to Curb Impulse Spending – An easy trick will help you curb that impulse. Next time you feel the urge to buy something you hadn’t planned to buy, simply clench your fist or flex your bicep. Voila! The spell is broken and you can actually think clearly again.

Wrap Your Charge Cards – Instead of leaving your credit cards at home, try Pamela’s trick of wrapping a picture or note that represents a financial goal around your cards. This helps you to decide whether or not what you are about to purchase is more important than your goal.

Distinguish Your Big Happy vs. Little Happy – The Big Happy for most of us is having memorable experiences and being with the people we love. That other stuff we chase? That’s usually Little Happy – fleeting and not very fulfilling.

Be Consistently, Consciously Grateful – Studies show consciously practicing gratitude, such as writing a daily journal of what we are grateful for – has beneficial effects on our health, relationships, emotional wellbeing, and career. But did you know it could also make you a more strategic spender? “When we practice gratitude, we feel ‘wealthier’ and more prosperous in all ways.” Yellen says. “Because of this, we’re less likely to crave material goods to feed an emotional need. And, studies have shown that having a grateful attitude actually enhances our ability to make good decisions.”

Create Value Comparisons – A sneaky marketing trick is to emphasize extremely high-priced goods so merely expensive ones seem like a good deal in comparison. Instead, Pamela recommends setting up your own value comparisons. “Put a price tag on some things you really enjoy and value: A simple date night out with your partner might be $100. Family pizza night might be $55 or taking your elderly aunt to the movies might cost $35. Compared to those things, does that $100 bottle of wine seem like such a bargain?”

Know Your Spending Triggers – “Do you feel driven to buy extravagant gifts as soon as the mall’s Santa shows up? When you have a rough day at work, do you crave some retail therapy to feel better? Are you triggered to overspend in a bookstore, hardware store, or swap meet? Know thyself – and especially know your triggers so you can outwit them!”

Pamela Yellen is a financial investigator and the author of two best-selling books, including her latest, The Bank on Yourself Revolution: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future. Pamela investigated more than 450 financial strategies seeking an alternative to the risk and volatility of stocks and other investments, which led her to a time-tested, predictable method of growing wealth now used by more than 500,000 Americans. For more information, visit

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