Psychology of shopping: Tips to avoid overspending

Published On: Nov 21 2012 02:53:47 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 22 2012 11:28:58 PM CST

Experts say many shoppers have a tendency to overspend this time of the year, but the search for a bargain actually begins in the brain.

Maybe you have lined up for a doorbuster, gotten up before dawn to hit the Black Friday Sales or you prefer to shop online in the comfort of your own home.  No matter how you do your holiday shopping, it can be a source of exhilaration and anxiety.  Experts said understanding why we buy can help make the process a lot less stressful.

Psychiatrist Dr. Barbara Herzig said it is easy for shoppers to get caught up in the experience.

"Sometimes the chase is as important as the target.  After it's over, swapping stories about the finds that you make is also an enjoyable experience," said Herzig.

Retailers know just how to push shoppers' panic buttons.  Words like limited time offer, short supply, hot deals can force consumers to make impulsive decisions.

"They get an adrenaline rush. However, the adrenaline rush can sometimes be a dangerous thing," said Herzig.

Research finds we are drawn to sales because they make us feel like savvy shoppers since we tend to focus on how much we saved instead of how much we spent.

Fear of not being able to get an item later can also push us to make purchases, and the emotion of the holidays can intensify the pressure to find the perfect present.

Experts recommend not leaving home without a strategy for where you want to go and what you need to get. Pre-planning is key.  If you do not have a budget and a list, it is very easy to get caught up in the excitement and spend more than you normally would.

"You don't want to have any fuzzy shopping goals. You want to make a list and a budget for each individual person and you want to stick with it," said Herzig.

If you cannot resist some impulse buys, set aside a specific amount of mad money.  When it is gone, head home.

Experts said another trap many people fall into is the "one for you, one for me" mentality.

A 2011 survey found the average shopper spends about $130 on himself or herself while holiday shopping.