Expert QA

Five ways to stress-free Christmas shopping

We show you how to beat buyer burnout.

In the two Christmas shopping camps, there are those who’ve done the lot by December and can spend their weekends safe in the knowledge they’ve got the best bargains, then there are the rest of us.
Well, there's always next year. In the meantime we’ve put together some tips and tricks to help you manage the 14 shopping days left to ensure you and your bank balance are in great shape for a wonderful Christmas Day.
The b word
New Zealanders are passionate shoppers. Last year we spent around $6.8 billion in December – that’s online as well as in store – and according to Retail NZ there’s every indication this Christmas we’ll spend even more. So before you set out to shop, make sure you’ve done a little planning.
If you’ve only got vague sense of who you need to buy for and what you think you’d like to get, you could end up in a pressured situation where stress fuels your shopping decisions, and leads to spending way more than you’d planned.
To avoid blowing the budget, and possibly your cool – cut back on confusion. Simply put: shop with a list and assign a dollar value. It doesn’t have to be to the last cent, but get specific – who and how much. Next do some research and see what’s on offer. Online gift guides have a great range of Christmas gift ideas and help if you need inspiration.
Be prepared
Once you’ve done the footwork and made a list of possible gift ideas and a spending plan, you’re ready to go shopping.
It’s worth remembering that now we’re well into December so if you’re shopping in store, expect crowds. Setting aside some time earlier in the day will mean you’re less likely to hit long check out lines, plus there’s also the bonus of plentiful parking.
Try not to shoehorn too much into a shopping day either, and allow yourself some extra time so you can take breaks when you need. The goal here is to stay on track financially, as well as emotionally, so mitigate the risk of derailing your planning efforts by shopping when you’re well fed and in a good mood – this applies if you’re shopping online as well.
Studies have shown willpower is stronger in challenging situations if you’re not fatigued or feeling hungry.
This is your brain on shopping
It’s worth thinking about how your brain responds to the experience of shopping to get a better understanding of why your mood can be affected.
Science explains the feel good factor that comes from shopping happens because the brain apparently releases dopamine, the happy hormone associated with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. A dopamine hit usually comes hot on the heels of challenge and excitement, and as shopping is both – you'll be feeling amped. But the downside is that too much can lead to dodgy decisions.
MRI studies of brain activity in relation to shopping have shown dopamine surges are more linked with anticipation rather than the actual experience. What this means is your brain gets hit with the hormone at moment you imagine owning the item rather than through the actual act of buying. This is why you can love something in store, and hate it when you get home.
Stave off stress from poor purchasing choices by giving yourself a chance to chill: 24 hours is usually enough.
Watch: The future of online shopping is here. Article continues after video.
Emotional rescue
While taking an abstemious approach comes with its own rewards, factoring in some funds to buy yourself a small gift is not only realistic, it also helps to curb the urge to splash out on those bigger ticket items.
We’re not advocating for shopping for the sake of it – quite the opposite. Shopping with awareness means you’re adult enough to realise you are going to want to spend money on yourself which gives you the opportunity to decide ahead of time how much you want to spend and what you might like to buy. It doesn’t lock you into anything – there’s every chance you could change your mind – but you’ve got choice on your side, plus who wants to feel guilty for self-gifting? Think of it more as a way of saying thank you to yourself for trying to be the best you can.
Make this a mindful Christmas
Making mindful shopping decisions creates conscious consumers. You can embrace the drive toward more ethical shopping choices by simply buying gifts you know people will appreciate, and love. Given the amount of unwanted presents that surface on Trademe every year – or become landfill down the track – it’s worth shopping with an eye to where your gift could end-up.
Finally, let it be said giving (and getting) gifts is great. But if the pressure is on, and your sanity is suffering keep this in mind: it’s all about love. The time you spend together on the day is what you’ll remember most.