Gretchen Rubin

5 Tips for Not Over-Spending — on Black Friday, or Any Other Time.

5 Tips for Not Over-Spending — on Black Friday, or Any Other Time.

In the United States, Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, and the Friday following the holiday is known as "Black Friday." It's such a popular shopping day that one explanation for the name is that it's the day when retailers go from being "in the red" to "in the black" (i.e., they start to show a profit).

Many people begin their holiday shopping on Black Friday; there are sales and special promotions; it's a popular day to visit the mall.

Which means that for some people, it's a challenge not to over-spend. 

In my book Better Than Before, about how to change habits, I identify the 21 strategies we can use to make or break a habit. If you're worried about spending too much, try these strategies:

1.The Strategy of Monitoring: keep close track of what you're spending. It's easy to forget various purchases, or maybe even to forget to check a price tag. Monitoring has a very powerful effect -- even if we're not even trying to change a behavior, we tend to do a better job if we monitor it.

2. The Strategy of Distinctions -- cash or credit cards: Some people do a better job controlling spending when they use cash.  For most people, using cash makes it harder to spend, because handing over actual bills feels hard. In fact, that's one reason that casinos use chips instead of cash; loss seems more imaginary when you're not handing over actual greenbacks.

On the other hand, some people are more careful when they use credit cards. They know that they're going to confront a record of every single dollar they spent. So do what works best for you.

3. The Strategy of Clarity: shop from a list, so you know exactly what you're planning to buy, and you don't make impulse purchases. If you're shopping for Christmas presents, say, don't buy something for yourself.

4. The Strategy of Accountability: have a partner who has to be notified every time you make a purchase. You could go shopping with your sweetheart who holds your wallet, for instance, or -- like a friend of mine -- you could text your brother every time you pull out your wallet. She found that just knowing that her brother would see what she was buying helped her to make better choices.

Remember, if you're an Obliger, you need accountability! This is crucial! If you want to form an Accountability Group, to get that crucial accountability, you can join the Better app. If you don't know if you're an Obliger--or an Upholder, Questioner, or Rebel--take the quiz here.

5. Strategy of Loophole Spotting. "Boy, we're good at thinking of loopholes. What are some loopholes you might invoke, as you're browsing the aisles?"

Moral licensing loophole: "I've been so good sticking to my budget, I deserve to splurge a little."

Tomorrow loophole: "Starting tomorrow, I'm going to be so frugal, it doesn't matter what I do today."

Lack of control loophole: "Stores are designed to be so tempting that no one could resist buying."

Arranging to fail loophole: "I'm not going to buy a single thing today, but I thought I'd just come and look around, for fun."

Questionable assumption loophole: "If it's Black Friday, this price must be a good bargain."

Fake self-actualization loophole: "You only live once, I should treat myself!"

One-coin loophole: "What difference is this one purchase going to make? I'm not going to bust my budget in one store."

When we recognize that we're invoking a loophole, we're able to resist.

How about you? Have you found some good ways to avoid over-spending?

Now, I myself am an under-buyer, so I don't have trouble with over-spending. I have trouble with under-spending; it's inconvenient and inefficient to be an under-buyer. So I have to force myself to purchase.

On the subject of money, you may be interested in this question: Which of These Four Stories Do You Tell Yourself about Money?

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