How Awareness of Seasonal Changes Can Save You Big $
Have you ever felt the urge to buy something based on the weather? For example, if you spent your winter curled up in a blanket drinking hot chocolate, you probably reasoned to buy a new tablet or Playstation. Or now that the weather is getting better, you may have the desire to buy a red Corvette, even if it’s out of your budget, just to tear down the asphalt in the summer. The items on our wishlists are often dictated by the time of year. Seasonal changes lead to shifts in mood, and shifts in mood translate to changes in our spending habits. With that said, there are risks to buying in this fashion if you aren’t careful.
Peaks & Valleys
Remember the expression, ‘peaks and valleys’? Well, that sums up the average Canadian’s spending patterns, perhaps, yours as well. Look at your shopping habits over the past few months. Reviewing your receipts and bank statements will likely reveal higher expenses, clustered at certain times of the year. In between those times, you’ll most likely see a greater number of small purchases – the impulse buys such as coffee and chewing gum – along with your regular bill payments. Not everyone will notice such a pattern since circumstances vary, and there’s nothing inherently good or bad about such a trend. However, if you’re like most Canadians, you may feel compulsions or anxiety even, to spend more money during certain months of the year.
The Weather & Your Wallet
Unlike other countries, where there’s basically a dry or wet season, Canada has four seasons. You know them by heart: winter, spring, summer, fall. Both long-time residents and newcomers recognize these seasons, as well as the transitions that come with them. However, temperatures and precipitation aren’t the only things that change – there’s also your shopping habits. For example, sunshine may trigger an urge to buy expensive outdoor furnishings or car gear. When curled up at home in winter, some people may find themselves spending huge amounts on entertainment in addition to copious amounts of comfort food. Here’s a challenge: Start paying attention to your purchase desires and spending habits every time you start to feel a difference in the weather. You’ll start to notice things.
- You may be reminded of an expensive gadget purchased in November or December
- Your bank statement may show some big numbers at an apparel store at the beginning of spring or fall
- You might find lots of little receipts in your car or pants pockets for snacks, fast food chains and car upgrades during the summer
Now it’s important you don’t confuse necessity with urges. It’s natural to spend more in the late fall for the holidays and when deals hit the stores. It’s certainly not a sin to spend on back-to-school supplies at summer’s end. Perhaps, you might think the best time to buy a car falls within a particular month, due to certain deals and incentives. However, it’s the unnecessary purchases we sometimes make, due to the ups and downs of our moods triggered by changing seasons, that require a second thought.
Risks of Spending Big During Seasonal Changes
There are downsides to shopping in a country where the seasons change every few months. Of course, one of those disadvantages is having to spend on things like new, season-appropriate clothing or tires for our cars. However, a more subtle danger is the unconscious change in how we shop. And if you’re not careful about these expenses, you may inadvertently hurt your credit score.
Forgetting About Small Purchases Between Big Ones
We tend to exercise more care when buying expensive items. For example, wanting to buy a 50-inch television on Boxing Day is something you’ll plan for; but regular stops at a McDonald’s drive-thru or iTunes purchases made months earlier, rarely raise any concern. The problem here, is the assumption that you have saved enough money during those seemingly lull periods where you didn’t buy anything expensive. Remember, the constant $5 buys add up. It’s not until you pick up the big items, that you realize how little you may have left.
Maxing the Card
The mind is a powerful yet misleading thing. Thanks to our emotion-fuelled decision process, we are experts at justifying why we need something when it’s really just a want. As a result, we’ll make excuses for spending money we don’t have, leading us to our last lifeline – the credit card. For example, you might say you need a new patio set for the summer, when your current set is fine. It’s no wonder why so many people rack up such massive credit card bills that take months and years to keep under control. Again, the desire of experiencing something during a particular reason – whether that desire comes from social pressure or a pleasant memory – is the reason why some people are willing to let their credit scores take a hit.
How Not to Succumb to Seasonal Buying Pressure
The good news about avoiding seasonal buying “fevers” is that they’re easy to prevent. All it takes is awareness of self and your past. However, as simple as it is to avoid, making the effort to stop yourself from spending too much when the weather changes goes a long way in maintaining a healthy credit.
Beating the Beast Named Desire
- Review Statements and Receipts – Get into the habits of saving your receipts and reviewing your bank statements at the end of each month, or weekly even. What you see may surprise you, but you’ll at least know how much you’re spending and saving, perhaps saving you from going on a money-draining shopping spree.
- Keep tabs on your credit score – Your credit profile shouldn’t feel like an enigmatic document that requires a treasure hunt. It’s a tangible thing you can learn about, relatively quickly. Generally, walking into a dealership with foreknowledge of your credit score is one of those tips for buying a car that doesn’t often get mentioned for other purchases. However, it is practice you should adopt for all major expenses.
- Go Back to Basics and Follow a Budget – Hopefully, you follow some sort of a budget. If you don’t have one, start now, and if you’ve fallen off track, make an effort to start following it again. The mere act of sticking to a budget will prevent you from making unnecessary purchases that make it harder to buy the bigger, more important things. It will also prevent you from purchasing expensive items you can’t afford in the first place.
Seasonal Change Shouldn’t Mean Wild Spending
Just because spring is here, you don’t have to spend money on an entirely new wardrobe. Or the childhood memory of a grand summer getaway shouldn’t be a reason for spending thousands on a similar experience, if paying for it will be a struggle. A good way to think of these impulses, is that they’re short lived and fleeting. The seasons themselves don’t last long, and that means your use of some items may be cut short. So why force yourself to buy everything? However, the best way to keep yourself in order, is by keeping tabs of your spending habits and credit. You’ll most likely notice patterns that will make it clear whether you need to make changes.