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How Not To Overspend On Your Christmas Shopping

How Not To Overspend On Your Christmas Shopping
Christmas shopping

    Christmas – it’s the lovely time of the year again; the time for giving and sharing of gifts with family and friends. As much as we want to celebrate and be jolly during this festive season, we want to make sure that we are careful about spending so that we don’t spoil the festive mood.

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    From past years’ experiences, my challenge with Christmas shopping has always been overspending. Retailers are really good at running promotions and coming up with the latest gift ideas to entice shoppers to spend more money than I really want to. Once at the shopping mall, I’m just constantly bombarded with opportunities to buy, buy, buy… Without realizing it, multiple small purchases accumulated into big amounts which gave me a big shock when the credit card bill came later.

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    This year, I’m going to be prepared for my Christmas shopping by have a shopping list and budget before I head down to the mall.

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    Here are some tips to prevent overspending and bursting your pockets this Christmas:

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    1. Have a list – List the people who you are going to buy a Christmas gift for. This is a good place to start as the exercise will help you see the ‘magnitude’ of the shopping you need to do. Here are some of the people who you will probably include in this list:
      • Family.
      • Close friends.
      • Colleagues.
      • Gift exchanges for Christmas parties.
    2. Think of a gift – For each person in the list, think of a suitable gift that you will like to buy for him/her. If you are not very sure at this point, have a few potential items listed so that you at least have something in mind when you are in the mall.
    3. Start a budget – For each gift, estimate how much you would spend on that gift. Total the prices for all the gifts you have listed and that’ll be your budget. If you have a few possible items listed for one person, use the price of the most expensive item to calculating the budget. You want to make sure you are prepared for the worst case scenario. Take a look at the total. Is this budget affordable? If not, you may have to review step 2 and 3 until you have a final budget that you are comfortable with.
    4. Do online research – A good way to check if your budget is realistic is to do some online research before you actually head down to the mall. Not only is this a good way to gather gift ideas and market rates, it also saves you time and energy you would waste going to the crowded mall simply for research purpose. Here are some great sites to start you off:
      • Amazon.com – the grandfather of online shopping for books, electronics, CD/DVD for music and movies. Now, it even includes apparel, jewelry, tools and sports gears.
      • Ikea.com – I get great ideas for cheap home furnishing gifts here.
      • Overstock.com – Covers a wide range of gift ideas, and offers gifts by budget ranges from under $25 to above $100 (only US shipping destinations).
      • Bizrate.com – Great site for price research as it aggregates catalogues from many online retailers into one site. When making actual online purchase, you will be redirected to the online retailer’s site.
    5. Do your shopping – Here’s where the real action starts. Get down to the shopping mall or go to online stores to do your shopping. Retailers like to run promotions during the Christmas season to encourage consumer spending. At the malls, be prepared to be tempted by irresistible offers and promotions. Having the shopping list and budget in hand will certainly help you stay focused. You are less likely to get distracted into opportunistic shopping which will result in you bursting your pockets.
    6. Review actual spending against budget – For each actual purchase that you make, update your budget with the actual money spent. If you have burst your budget on some items, then you’ll have to lower the spending on other items to make up for the differences. Likewise, if you make some savings on certain items, then you’ll have more slack to play with on other items. Keep doing this for the entire shopping list and you will be able to constantly track your actual spending against your budget. This is vitally important to help you keep within your shopping budget.

    I have included a sample budget in Excel to get you started on budgeting for your Christmas shopping. You can download Christmas shopping budget template here.

    It does take some upfront efforts to plan your Christmas shopping. However, the effort will allow you to shop with focus and saves you time and money later on. With the above tips, I hope you will enjoy a guilt and worry free holiday. There will not be any nasty surprises when the January bill comes in as you know very well how much you have spent. Have a joyous and enjoyable shopping experience!

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    Lawrence Cheok

    Lawrence writes about living a balance life and provide tips for improving your career.

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    Last Updated on October 15, 2019

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why we procrastinate after all

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    So, is procrastination bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How bad procrastination can be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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    8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

    Procrastination, a technical failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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