Why do we overspend?


In yesterday’s post I shared 5 tips to avoid overspending this Christmas.  These tips were focused on external things that we can do to rein in our spending.

Today I want to discuss the internal things that cause us to overspend at Christmas (and other times throughout the year).

Why do we overspend?

One big reason is that we begin selling ourselves on what we want rather than what we need. We listen to ourselves until we believe our own lies and then we opt for happiness now.

A crazy dynamic takes place here. The brain that should keep us out of trouble now becomes a part of the problem.

Once we get fixated on the happiness now option, we assign our brains the task of coming up with a list of very convincing reasons to support our choice. Reasons, by the way, that really have nothing to do with why we chose to buy what we did.

An example from my life of how this dynamic works

A while back I really wanted a flat screen TV and the opportunity (temptation) to buy one came up.  Future Shop had a great sale on. They had a flat screen TV on sale for $379 with free shipping.

That’s a great deal, right? It seemed too good to be true.  I came up with many “convincing” reasons why I “needed” this TV.

It could double as a monitor for my laptop (very practical, right?).

It would be better for our eyes (you know, bigger picture, less glare).

I am never going to find a better deal than this (this one always works for me).

It will be better for the kids to play Wii on (I admit that one was weak but it seemed like a good reason at the time).

Very convincing reasons, right?

The problem was we didn’t have $379 to buy a new TV!

But once I had fixated my thoughts on having that TV and how happy it would make me, it was very difficult not to buy it.

Once I chose happiness now, I told my brain to come up with some good reasons to justify it. I nearly convinced myself but thankfully I had a moment of clarity and I didn’t purchase it.

Don’t settle for happiness now!

Don’t believe the lies this Christmas season when it comes to your purchases!  Don’t settle for happiness now (which is only temporary until the credit card bill comes in January).

Remember, Christmas isn’t about the gifts, and it’s not about stuff!

I love this quote from Dave Ramsey. He said:

“Don’t think the spirit of Christmas is about ‘stuff.’ You can have a giving spirit without having a negative checking account. Don’t forget the reason for the season.”

How do you overcome the temptation to settle for happiness now?


  • Adam says:

    I try to never buy on impulse. I always take the night think about it. Usually when I do this it makes it pretty clear if it is a need or a want.

    Love that quote from Dave. So true.

  • Fatima Hipolito says:

    Is that real Adam, I think I agree what have you said, and by the way kevs I like this one..

  • Great timely advice Kevin. I agree that needs and wants can become very cloudy these days. This is especially true with everyone making you feel like a heel if you don’t get your great aunt’s gardner’s sister’s boyfriend a gift because he held the door open for you three years ago ;). It really has gotten so that people equate gifts with love. The more you buy the more you love. That is pure craziness.

    I think my five year old summed it up best when she asked why we get the gifts if it is Christ’s birthday.

  • We need to remember, instantaneously and constantly, “Jesus is the reason for the season”. Nothing else counts.

  • Cindy says:

    nice text, and I totally agree with you. You were very clever to be able to resist of buying that flatscreen tv. Unfortunately, so are we all. We are searching for some fake facts to justify our will. While buying something, we always make emotional decisions. And that’s why we need to justify every buy with some “happiness”-facts. But the holidays aren’t about buying expensive things. They are about giving and spreading love. What Jesus say, if he saw that we are buying flatscreen televisions to each other on his birthday?:)

  • Steve-Personal Success Factors says:

    Hello, Kevin. I truly appreciate your admonishment to stick with needs versus wants. I recently started our family on David Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, and it feels so good to be on a careful budget.

    • We have been working through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and it has been awesome for us! Having a proper perspective on money is so critical to our ongoing spiritual growth.

      Thanks for sharing Steve!

  • People buy guided by emotions and justify it with logic.
    this is what the whole consumer consumption is based and your example of the TV ran a bell when I get hypnotized by all the publicity and the promises to offer a better life when at the end of the day we become ” slaves” and dependant on these illusionary gadgets.
    Weren’t our grandparents happy without all these super technological gadgets?

    I think this same bulimia applies to services on the internet promising “magic quick solutions” to get you clients fast and lot’s of money in few days… and many of us buy it!

    Thanks for this post, David Ramsey’s quote is very smart and explicit!

    • We definitely live in a world of instant gratification and entitlement. As you said, we end up becoming “slaves” to material things. We need to battle against this mentality.

      Thanks for sharing Patricia!

  • Michael Snow says:

    May be a bit late for this, but this is a great link with a thought provoking video on giving the gift of water.

    • Never too late for a link like that Michael! 🙂

      The last two years our family has chosen to use the World Vision gift catalog for our gifts. I love being able to give a gift that makes a huge difference in someone else’s life.

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