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For Boss Ladies: 11 Tips to Stick to Your Holiday Budget

Can you really stick to a holiday budget? Filipinos celebrate the longest holiday season in the world, and probably have a Christmas gift list as long as Santa’s. That being the case, we’ll probably rank high in a shopping survey if we plot the rate of spending as a function of income.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the usual holiday shopping tips, including: (1) make a list; (2) group the recipients and set aside a budget for each group; (3) start shopping early; (4) go to Divisoria to enjoy deep discounts; and (5) give something that you yourself have made. These are all useful tips, and I hope that you can still do them.

However, the reality is that a lot of boss ladies end up squeezing their Christmas shopping in their busy schedules. Many times they go beyond their budget due to lack of planning, time and the proper disposition conducive to making rational decisions. So instead of the usual holiday shopping tips, and as someone who has studied the effects of psychological, social and emotional aspect of consumer behavior, also known as Behavioral Economics (B.E.), here are some ideas I’ve gathered from different B.E. theories:

1.     Have a shopping plan.

 Treat it like a mission with time, strategy and end goal all listed down. If you can, make a list in Excel file format of recipients and gifts, which you can update every year. This way, you have a record of what you have given a recipient year after year.

2.     Choose your shopping venue well.

Avoid driving from one place to another as time is a valuable resource.

3.     Sleep well, eat well.

After a restful night, have a good breakfast taken at a strategic time (not too early so as not to be hungry after only an hour of shopping). It has been established in B.E. studies that we tend to make irrational decisions when we’re in a “depleted state” (i.e., hungry, angry, etc.)

4.     Leave the credit card at home.

If you’re not yet disciplined with the use of your mighty plastic, don’t bring it. The pain of departing with cash is so much greater than signing those charge slips and will help you stay within budget. What’s more, shopping with cash automatically puts a stop when you reach your limit.

5.     Self-affirm before shopping.

Studies show that when we remind ourselves of our positive traits before we go shopping, we tend to shop less. This is the very basis of retail therapy. Someone who feels terrible would need more stuff to feel better about herself.

6.     Dress well.

Yes, it’s best to shop in comfy clothes, but don’t overdo it. You still have to look good. Why? Salespeople have a tendency to treat well-dressed customers better and do the opposite to those who are not. I know a story of someone who was not treated well by the saleslady because she wasn’t properly dressed. To show her financial capability, she exaggerated her purchases. So we see two irrational behaviors at work here. Unfortunately, the cost was carried by the customer.

7.     Schedule a break.

Hungry stomachs and tired feet make irrational decisions.

8.     Shop alone.

We are affected by our companions such that when she starts buying stuff that’s not within our budget, we tend to copy her. There’s also a pressure to make the purchase if someone is waiting for us.

9.     Stick to the plan.

Detours will most probably increase your purchases, or at the very least, waste your time.

10. Buy the less expensive items first.

A B.E. principle called anchoring suggests that the human tendency is to use the number first suggested to us as a basis or anchor. So if we’ve already made a big-ticket purchase at the start, chances are it would be easier for us to purchase higher-priced goods later.

11. Record your purchases.

Once you get home or as soon as practicable, update an Excel file and input the items you purchased together with prices and tick off the items done. It will give you a sense of accomplishment. If you’re not yet done, plan your next trip and follow the 10 items all over again.

Holiday gift giving can be a source of stress. Billions of hard- earned cash are spent for “useless” gifts that we both give and receive. Remember, Christmas gift giving is not an economic exercise but a social exercise. We belong to a society that observes certain norms of behavior. This line about gift giving is a cliché because it’s true: It’s the thought that counts.

This article originally appeared in Working Mom. Changes have been made for Metro.Style.