Avoid Buyer’s Remorse This Holiday Season

Buyer’s Remorse: The sense of regret that follows making a purchase, frequently associated with the purchase of expensive items.

Good ol’ buyer’s remorse. We all feel it from time to time, but it’s particularly potent around the end of the holidays. Seventy-eight per cent of Canadians who celebrate have experienced buyer’s remorse after the holidays,1 and it has a serious effect on future decision-making. For example, nearly 64 per cent of holiday celebrators have considered cutting back on gifts or not exchanging gifts at all.1 This holiday season, cut buyer’s remorse off at the source with some simple planning and strategic shopping.

Why You Feel Buyer’s Remorse

Buyer’s remorse is tricky. Technically, you’re responsible for how much you spend during the holidays — so if you spend too much, it’s easy to blame yourself. But there are a lot of external factors too. Holiday sales, unexpected expenses, spendthrift friends and aggressive advertising put a lot of pressure on you to overspend during the holidays. That’s probably why 46 per cent of Canadians celebrating the holidays feel somewhat or very pressured to overspend.1

A common misconception is that you need to spend more to show your friends and family just how much you appreciate them. When you do this you are mixing fiscal value with emotional value. Just because something costs a lot doesn’t mean it makes a better gift than something more affordable. More often it is the thought and intentions behind a gift that make it successful — and there’s no reason you can’t find (or make) thoughtful gifts on a budget!

How to Avoid Buyer’s Remorse This Holiday Season

One of the best things you can do to avoid buyer’s remorse is to choose your purchases ahead of time. Sit down somewhere far from the bright lights of holiday shopping and write down what you want to buy. Stick to that list in-store and you should be able to avoid costly impulse buys, a prime cause of buyer’s remorse. For extra control, set a price limit for each present ahead of time. That way you’re not tempted to spend more buying “premium” or “deluxe” versions of what is basically the same product.

Another tip is to keep emotion out of the equation. Emotions can blur even the best-laid plans, especially when it comes to last-minute shopping. Try to spread your purchases out over weeks or months if possible, and get them done sooner rather than later. If you wait till the last minute, the stress builds up, your gift choices could be sold out, and you’re more likely to buy expensive or unwanted items. So avoid last-minute shopping as much as possible and make time to do your shopping early in the holiday season.

Finally, take a stand against overspending. Nearly 22 per cent of Canadians believe that going into debit is a necessary evil during the holidays,1 and that acceptance can make you all the more likely to overspend. If you believe in your budget you’ll have an easier time saying no to unnecessary purchases.

Knowing When to Return and Re-Gift

Most of us have done it at some point or another — re-gifting or returning a gift. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Nearly 1 in 3 Canadians have returned some of their gifts to recoup their holiday spending.1 If you don’t like something, why leave it sitting around gathering dust? Return that gift and put the money into your savings, where it can grow and even defer some of your holiday spending. Or if you think someone else would like the gift, consider re-gifting it! It’s a great way to save money and can save you an additional shopping trip.

The holidays don’t have to lead to buyer’s remorse. By monitoring your spending and setting a few guidelines ahead of time, you can cut the problem off at the source. All it takes is a little time and a commitment to doing what’s best for your financial future — and don’t beat yourself up if you overspend the first time around. Practice makes perfect.


1Data from DollarsDirect.ca’s Holiday Survey of 1,001 Canadians, October 2014