Spending too much

Sadly, spending too much is a recurrent part of Christmas for some people.  But why do they repeat that year after year despite their best efforts?

Part of the reason is the way our brains work.  When we shop we get a dopamine hit when we’re given our purchases or when we receive our parcel.  Unfortunately, we soon get used to the dopamine hit and need more and more just to get the same effect – a process called “hedonic adaptation”.

 This means that we need to spend more and more just to get the same effect.  And that’s why we spend too much at Christmas – because the more we buy the more we have to pay to get the same emotional satisfaction from it.

So what can you do if you realise you’re in this mental trap?

Firstly, if you don’t currently have a list then don’t start or continue shopping until you do.  It’s tempting to think that inspiration will strike if we go to the shops, but we’ll also find crowds and pressures about time that can make it impossible to step back and think.

This is why shopping on-line can be better.  It’s easier to compare prices and items, and it’s easier to stick to the list that you made.  It’s also a lot easier to step away and make an informed decision about items before committing to buy them or finding that you’re spending too much.  Part of the reason is that the dopamine reward isn’t quite the same on-line, so there’s not the same internal pressure to keep spending more.

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