Like any other normal person, I enjoy reading several websites. As a personal finance author, I like to stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest conversations happening on other finance blogs. It was just last week that I noticed a popular topic trending. While it’s not uncommon for the same topic to be discussed across several blogs, this time it caught me off guard because of the topic itself: preparing for the Holidays.
People are already talking about getting ready for the Holidays? What’s wrong with these people?
It’s only the end of September and people are already planning their spending for Christmas. While I am a huge fan of planning for expenses ahead of time, I feel like this might be happening for the wrong reasons. It’s almost as bad as hearing about a friend’s neighbor already decorating for Halloween. While it encourages people to plan for the future, it encourages excessive consumerism. (Didn’t everyone read my piece on young adults and consumerism?)
Wish List Mentality – Enabling Thoughtless Spending
As I’ve shared before, I didn’t have a lot of extra money. Our budget was tight and we used to barely make ends meet. It was just as bad in college, like many of you probably experienced as well. I rarely spent money on things that I didn’t need (side note: is it just me, or does it seem easier to budget when you don’t have extra money?). But, I wasn’t immune to the various marketing campaigns. We all see advertisements as they are everywhere. Since I couldn’t afford to buy anything, I found another way to give in to marketers. I created a wish list.
I thought creating a wish list would make things easier. I would know what I would be saving money because I would be aware of deals when I saw them. You know how it happens…
You instantly get inspired to try a new hobby. You realize that in order to do this or that, you “have” to have a new product. This means a major expense. You go to the store or check an online retailer and before you know it, you are checking out with the item to start your new hobby. It’s only days later that you realize that you bought that item at retail price when it was on sale elsewhere.
I thought I could avoid all of this by having a wish list. By paying close attention to the things that I wanted to buy when I somehow acquired more money, I would be aware of the best price and save me money.
What I failed to realize is that I was only encouraging myself to spend more money. By keeping a wish list, I never saved extra money nor did I put it towards retirement. Instead, extra money was thrown towards the things I had been drooling over for the previous months.
Thinking about the Holidays in September encourages the same time of spending. Instead of encouraging responsibility, talking about the best Christmas gifts or planning your Black Friday 2012 schedule is a little extreme. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for responsible themes to be communicated or expressed. That’s not it at all.
What I’m trying to communicate is that financial planning, even with the best intentions, can be a distraction for people who struggle with controlling their spending. It can convince consumers that by planning out their spending months in advance they are being responsible, when in reality it is encouraging an addiction.
Readers, what do you think? Is it okay to talk about the Holidays in September?