5 Surprising Strategies to Prevent Self-Gifting


One for you, one for me…

When you’re out shopping for holiday gifts, do you tend to pick up several things for yourself, in addition to all the presents you’re placing wrapped under the Christmas tree? If so, count yourself amongst the throngs of shoppers doing the same.

A study conducted by the National Retail Federation (a retail advocacy group) discovered that six in 10 consumers plan to buy themselves something this holiday season, spending an average of $139.92. And that’s on top of the $750 they’re already spending on gifts, decorations, food, and other holiday-related items. Of those self-giving this year, 70 percent of 18- to 24-year-old consumers are most likely to pick up something for themselves—the highest of any demographic.

At its core, self-gifting is really just the same as impulse shopping. So how can improve your willpower when you step inside the mall?

Get in and out of a store—quickly.

Dr. David Bell, professor of marketing at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and his two colleagues surveyed shoppers and found that those who consider themselves “fast and efficient” in stores are 82 percent less likely than the average person to make impulse purchases.

Don’t be fooled by sales.

According to a recent Harris Interactive poll, 50 percent of impulse buys were triggered by promos and discounts. So keep in mind that a “buy-one-get-one-half-off” sale doesn’t save you any money if you only need to purchase one. Resist the temptation to pick up the second item—unless you plan on giving it as a gift as well.


Researchers from Washington State University College of Business and Kuwait University have found that both physical and mental exercise increase self-control. Study participants were less likely to make impulse purchases after just two weeks of regular training. So start moving.

Eat a snack.

If you head out to the stores on an empty stomach, you’re more likely to grab something that you don’t really need. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research reported that shoppers who smelled the aroma of chocolate chip cookies (Hello Mrs. Fields!) were 67 percent more likely to make an unplanned purchase.

Keep your hands to yourself.

The adage should be: You touch, you buy. Hold something for just 30 seconds and you’re more willing to pay for it. Why? In that short amount of time, you’re already forming an attachment to the product—whether it’s a bag of red and green M&Ms in the checkout line or a pair of soft cashmere gloves on a table at a store’s entrance.

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Published December 18, 2012 Updated: November 17, 2013
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