You’ve been there. You open up a holiday sale email, and the colorful images of trendy new items make you drool a little. You click into the store, ready to shop for Christmas gifts.
There’s a gorgeous handbag that immediately makes you think of your best friend, but even the sale price is more than you planned to spend on her.
You know what? Last year, your friend bought your daughter an animatronic Disney princess carriage. So, you kind of owe it to her to splurge on her gift. And the sale price on the bag is truly a good deal. You can just imagine the look on her face when she opens such a beautiful gift.
Order now! Boom!
You immediately go to your email inbox again, and seeing that order confirmation email makes you feel so accomplished. But what you’re really feeling are the effects of emotional spending
. That twinge of happiness and excitement is dopamine rushing through your brain like a drug. You can get the same effect by going for a run, listening to your favorite music, or eating sugar.
The crazy thing is, retailers know you get that hit when you place an order, and you can get it again when they send you that little email saying your order has shipped. And you’ll get it again when you see that coveted package waiting on your doorstep.
Three in four people said
that buying something impulsively during the pandemic has positively affected their mood. We’re all a little scared, the future is kind of up in the air, and it feels good to just dull the stress and spark some joy with a little harmless shopping. And you know what feels even better than spending money on yourself? Spending money on other people.
Now that the holidays are upon us, every commercial you see or email you read is full of ideas for gift giving. And there’s nothing wrong with giving—if it’s in your budget and you can afford the gift. Giving truly is the most fun you can have with money. But just like in the example above, at some point, we’ve all spent more money than we planned on Christmas presents. Maybe we’re trying to buy “Christmas spirit” or approval from others. Whatever the motivation, it comes from a place of emotion, and that can get you into trouble with money.
The people in your life don’t need more presents—what they truly want is your presence. If you want to feel at peace this holiday season, make a plan for your money before you spend it. A budget gives you permission to spend on the people you love without putting yourself in a bad place financially. That way, when January rolls around, you’ll have meaningful memories without the guilt!
Rachel Cruze is the host of “The Rachel Cruze Show” and “The Rachel Cruze Show” podcast, and a best-selling author, including “Love Your Life, Not Theirs” and “Smart Money Smart Kids,” which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey. Follow Cruze at RachelCruze.com and on Twitter @RachelCruze.