Thanksgiving, gratitude, and wiser holiday shopping

Black Friday rolls toward us in a tsunami of spending.

tsunami wave with a dollar sign
Tsunami of spending

But there is a way we can resist the onslaught of commercialism with our sanity and our wallets intact: gratitude.

Remembering all we are grateful for

If we are mindful of all the blessings in our lives, we are better able to resist the temptation to spend too much.

table set for Thanksgiving dinner
Counting our blessings

In his column “How to Defeat the Impulse Buy” in the New York Times, David DeSteno discusses his study on impulse buying. His findings reveal a lot about our spending habits.

Willpower alone isn’t enough

Willpower alone doesn’t help curb impulse spending, according to DeSteno, and in fact relying on willpower alone will lead to failure. Marketers have perfected the time-pressured sales pitch of Black Friday and the holiday season in general.

ad for Black Friday saying entire store is 30 percent off
Time-pressured marketing on Black Friday

Instead of relying on willpower, we need to cultivate gratitude.

Gratitude leads to what DeSteno calls “financial patience,” the ability to give up the immediate gratification of a purchase today in exchange for a purchase in the future. Study participants who felt grateful had twice as much financial patience. The takeaway for us is that financial patience can help us resist the temptation of those moonlight madness deals.

Cultivating gratitude can help us stick to a budget

Being mindful of all we have to be grateful for can help us stick to our budgets. And it can restore our ability to think clearly in the face of amazing deals, never-this-low prices, and limited quantities available.

This year when I go out shopping I plan to take a gratitude list. What about you? Will you give this a try?



My coffee costs how much?

I was surprised to learn how much a coffee habit could cost me over time. The average U.S. employee spends $21 per week buying coffee drinks. That adds up to roughly $1100 per year.

I put together this infographic to illustrate how the costs accumulate over time, from 10 years out to 40 years. I also calculated the result of saving that money and investing it at a modest 3% (just to keep up with inflation).


enjoying my coffee without blowing my budget

Yes, once in a while I indulge in a decadent coffee when I’m out and about. (Make mine mocha!) For me, coffee is more than an indulgence – it’s a necessity. I have to have it to function in polite society. Just ask anyone who’s ever shared an office with me.

But the bottom line is I’m cheap. I can make coffee at home. I can even make fancy coffee drinks like cafe au lait and iced mochas. (More on this in an upcoming post.) I can think of lots of other uses for that money. Such as, I don’t know, retirement.

being able to retire someday

I keep reading about how little Americans are saving. Most of us don’t have an emergency fund. And more than a third of us have less than $1,000 set aside for retirement. I’d rather scrimp now and be able to live comfortably when I’m older.

How is your retirement nest egg? Do you have any strategies for making it grow?

links and resources on coffee and spending wisely