Though many people enjoy holiday shopping, others find it overwhelmingly stressful. It means battling crowds, waiting on long lines, and having to resist the temptation to buy things left and right. In fact, it's that last challenge that most Americans seem to struggle with. A good solution, therefore, might be to do more of your holiday shopping online this year.
An estimated 70% of consumers are likely to make unplanned purchases in a store, according to a report by Avionos, a provider of digital commerce and marketing solutions. By contrast, only 26% of consumers are likely to make impulse purchases from desktops, mobile devices, or tablets.
Much of it has to do with the physical allure of new things. A fancy gadget or nice-looking handbag is generally more appealing in person than it is on a screen. And retail stores plan their layouts and inventory in ways that lead to impulse buying -- that's why you'll always see that array of candy bars when you go to check out at a grocery store. Staying out of retail stores during the holidays, therefore, is a good way to keep your spending in check and avoid racking up debt.
That said, under certain circumstances, hitting the stores might be necessary. For example, if a great deal on an item you're looking for is available in a brick-and-mortar shop only, buying it online could cost more needlessly. Similarly, if you're buying clothing you need to try on for fit, shopping in a store is far more effective than ordering multiple sizes online and having to deal with returns.
If you do need to visit some retailers in the coming weeks, here are a few ways to avoid falling victim to unplanned buys:
1. Make a list first
There's something about putting your plans in writing that makes you more likely to stick to them. Before going to any store, list what you need to buy, even if it's only one or two items. Seeing it on paper might focus your brain so it doesn't lead you astray.
2. Shop only with cash
The benefit of credit cards is that they typically give you cash back on your purchases and other types of protection. The downside is that they make it all too easy to overspend. If you really want to avoid impulse buys, leave your credit cards at home and bring only enough cash to purchase those items on your list.
3. Get a shopping buddy to hold you accountable
No matter how many times you tell yourself you're only going to buy this or that when shopping, all it takes is a "sale" sign to catch your eye and throw that plan off course. So it's smart to shop with an accountability partner -- someone who can remind you that you promised not to stray from your list, and perhaps reward you for sticking to your promise with a congratulatory latte afterward. Pairing up with a friend is a great way to help ensure that both of you stick to your respective budgets, no matter how tempted you are to do otherwise.
The more shopping you do, the more likely you are to spend more than you can afford. If you can't avoid shops completely, be strategic when visiting them. You'll be thankful for it when you end the holiday season debt-free.