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3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Starting Your Holiday Shopping

Holiday shopping won't get the best of us this year – in fact, it might even make us better versions of ourselves.
Original Artwork by Rosie Bowker

Original Artwork by Rosie Bowker

According to an annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, consumers say they will spend an average $967.13 on holiday shopping. Do a quick gut check with that amount – does it seem high or low, depending on your personal shopping experience?

No matter your response, it is true that everyone will be swimming in this season’s choppy consumer waters. You know the scene: familiar holiday music repeats from store to store, red candles glimmer and the scent of cinnamon wafts. Sophisticated data-tracking technology attempts to hook you with additional online purchases, too.

The consumer system ensures you won’t miss out on any opportunity to spend. You are, after all, included in the purchasing statistics.

I call these holiday trends “water boiling moments” (WBM). During this season, heat and pressure are turned up incrementally on you, the unassuming shopper. It’s challenging and exhausting to resist extra purchases. After all, the job of marketing is to activate an unfulfilled desire in you, the consumer, so that you’ll squelch your longing with a purchase.

So, what is the solution? How can you enjoy the holidays while intentionally using this time for personal growth and internal expansion?

A great way to activate change amid the frenzy is to ask consciousness-raising questions that highlight your financial habits and routines: How do you currently feel about your financial experience? What adjustments would you like to make? How can your holiday purchasing habits move you towards a future you can financially manage? Remember, your human experience is mirrored in your financial numbers.

These three personal shifts will help guide this season’s shopping experience and invite a deeper understanding of yourself.

1. Think ahead.

A highly leveraged debt position or a minimal savings environment is often linked to the inability to think ahead or imagine the future. Blue Monday, the common name given to a Monday in late January that's supposedly the most depressing day of the year, recognizes that people are faced with bulging credit card balances after overshooting their holiday spending. It highlights the annual lack of foresight as people kick off the New Year in a disheartened state.

In order to shift or even avoid this societal reality, think ahead to create a different scenario. What kind of financial experience do you envision for January? What are the subtle, yet intentional shifts you can make that will help you grow internally while you increase your savings or reduce your debt externally?

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2. Know thyself. Grow thyself.

Pull out a piece of paper and begin to jot down some notes as you think about your life one year from now:

  • What pieces of your financial story or narrative would you like to adjust?
  • If you were reading this article in November 2018, what would you like your financial numbers to be?
  • What present actions will adjust the trajectory of your financial story? 

Place the piece of paper in a secure location for 30 days. Then, every 30 days following, observe, notice and write about the status of your financial life. Cultivate monthly review. Are you closer or further away from the changes you want to see?

I call this method micro-vision journaling, which comprises miniature experiences of naming, looking and noticing that cultivate larger vision and imagination. This kind of observation always changes reality. You will be amazed at the understanding you have of yourself and your finances with systematic and ritualistic observation.

3. Create a holiday shopping decision model.

If I walk into a grocery story and I’m starving, there's no better place to be: surrounded by food! But, wait. Though my eventual need (hunger) is about to be satisfied, there is a high likelihood I will eat too quickly and make purchases that are convenient but often unhealthy. I have allowed the ecosystem to dictate how I will purchase (in a grab-and-go style) and how I will eat (rapidly), because hunger drives my decisions instead of thought and foresight.

In the same way, holiday advertisements and shopping experiences are intentionally designed to drive the consumer in spontaneous moments, rather than the other way around. Quick purchases, convenient offerings, and even grab-and-go possibilities abound. 

This season, take time to write out your holiday shopping decision model (HSDM) before entering the salmon stream of struggle and velocity. These questions will help you craft it:

  • What do you actually need to purchase?
  • Are there necessary conversations with family and friends to help bolster, support and implement your holiday spending expectations?
  • Who are you purchasing for? List the people. List the ideal monetary shopping range for each person.
  • Do you need to buy anything for yourself?
  • Most importantly, what is your back up plan when you find yourself wanting to divert from your HSDM?

With these three practices – thinking ahead, practicing observation through micro-vision journaling, and creating your HDSM – I invite you to align your shopping experience with intentional personal shifts this season. Allow each holiday purchase to serve as an invitation to grow your present and future self. You may still be a statistic in the consumer system, but in your life, you are a human with infinite opportunities for change.

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