Editorial – Wallet on a Diet, Part II

Holiday cravings settling in? Surf the web this season, and you’ll be overwhelmed with articles, blog posts, and Tweets full of tips and tricks to avoid growing your own Santa belly.

Overindulging in treats isn’t the only seasonal pitfall we have to contend with. Yet It’s harder to find similar tips for avoiding a different, but equally worrisome, holiday habit: overspending, over-buying, and over-accumulating.

Oh, articles on a thriftier holiday season are everywhere. With leaner economic times for many, our wallets are feeling the cost of Christmas a little more keenly this year. But although discovering how to save on that perfect gift, treat, or decoration is definitely helpful, It’s not the only story.

In fact, all those good deals might be doing the opposite of what You’re hoping. How to keep that wallet on a reasonable diet so that you don’t have to deal with some real January blues when the credit card bill arrives?

Let’s take a cue from the world of health: It’s possible to navigate both the holiday buffet and the Christmas shopping season without regrets come January 1. This week we’ll look at some popular holiday diet strategies?and apply them to our wallets.

First tip: ?Eat beforehand,? says Shape Magazine . This works at the store as well as the party; going food shopping on an empty stomach means you’ll be more likely to grab hunger-motivated treats you and your family don’t really need for a ?fulfilling? Christmas. Even if You’re shopping for non-edibles, be aware: hunger (and exhaustion!) can cloud your judgment, which translates to a lot more impulse purchases. Follow the same logic when shopping online?do it when You’re fresh, not exhausted.

?Use a smaller plate,? advises Canadian Living magazine. This is pretty easily applied to the department store. Ever wonder why shopping cart sizes have increased over the years? It’s a psychological game; we feel we aren’t buying all that much if the cart has only a few items rolling around on the bottom. Instead of grabbing a cart, pick up a basket at the entrance?chances are you’ll rethink a few nonessential buys when you realize you’ll need to carry them around the store yourself. Now just don’t load up that basket with tiny, high-priced electronics!

What’s your personal weakness? ?Identify the . . . culprits,? says the Mayo Clinic . If you know you can’t resist adding yet another cute nail polish?or another cool iPod case?to your collection, stay out of those aisles. Then you can save yourself the internal battle in the first place.

Really having trouble controlling your wallet? ?Step away from the banquet,? says Marie Claire. If You’re near the source of temptation?whether the buffet table or the department store?You’re more likely to give in. Limit your shopping trips by planning ahead; figure out your needs, make your lists in advance, and choose one day each week for getting in all the shopping. The less You’re around the mall, the better for your credit card bill.

Many North Americans tend to over-shop?buy far more gifts, treats, and decorations than are necessary. When at a holiday party, WebMD recommends that revellers ?[resist] the urge to go back for more by waiting at least 20 minutes for [the] brain to register that [they’re] comfortably full.? Similarly, don’t wait until the week before Christmas to discover you’ve over-bought once again; take a physical inventory a couple times a week. Make sure you hang on to those receipts, too; tape or staple them to tags or items. Unlike the party tray, you get a second chance?buyer’s remorse means you have the opportunity to return items that you probably shouldn’t have bought in the first place.

And while out and about shopping, slow down! When there’s a time crunch, You’re more likely to cast around for anything to fill the cart or basket. This especially applies to web-based deal-seeking. Make a policy of avoiding limited-duration sales unless there’s an item you had already researched and decided upon. Fifteen minutes to make a sale doesn’t leave much time for good judgment. Even if this means you might miss a good deal, you’ll still save money in the long run.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t ?[succumb] to peer pressure,? the Huffington Post warns. Beware of buying into the expectation game: even Santa has started advising kids to aim lower, as this Daily Mail article notes. Talk with family and friends about holiday expectations. If your finances are tight, choose fewer or less showy, but perhaps more meaningful gifts, or go homemade. If Scrooge turns up his nose, then he’s the one who’s missing the meaning of Christmas.

Which brings me to my last point: Christmas isn’t all about food, and it isn’t all about spending. But exercising moderation in both can leave you with more time, patience, and serenity to enjoy and appreciate friends and family. And isn’t that what the season’s all about?