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Consumers regret impulse buys

By Marcie Geffner · Bankrate.com
Monday, December 10, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

If you made an unplanned purchase last month, you weren't alone.

The National Endowment for Financial Education, or NEFE, estimates that, in a typical month, more than two-thirds of U.S. adults buy something on impulse.

These unplanned purchases often lead to regret. NEFE, which based its estimates on a September survey of 2,339 people, says shoppers regret impulse purchases 71 percent of the time. Most regretted were clothing and shoes, followed by toys for children, technology products and home decor.

Impulse shopping can really hurt at this time of year. A lot of consumers will break their budget on presents. And decorations, holiday cards, entertaining, dining out and travel can stretch expenses even further, NEFE spokesman Paul Golden said in a statement.

"A lot of families watch their budget very closely throughout the year and spend far beyond their expectations during the holidays," Golden said. "This short period of major spending can lead to long-term problems such as credit card debt, which can cause a burden for years to come."

Here, courtesy of the NEFE, are some tips to manage holiday-season spending.

  • Stop at one. Don't buy a second gift when one gift will do. "Don't be afraid to say 'no' to gifts you can't afford," Golden says. "The greatest gift you can give yourself is financial stability."
  • Make concessions. Cut your list of gift recipients. Be selective about which holiday parties you attend. Avoid expensive wrapping paper, and consider sending letters instead of store-bought holiday cards.
  • Shop smart. If you shop online, be sure to figure in shipping fees. Look for good deals on auction websites. Check sale ads regularly and be selective in your choices. Don't wait until the last minute.
  • Be realistic. Don't get carried away with your spending. Be mindful of your goals, long-term outlook and personal financial plans.

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff.

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