Buy yourself a merry little Christmas?

th1 Buy yourself a merry little Christmas?Fewer of us plan to “self-gift” this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. Of the 6,415 U.S. consumers surveyed by the NRF, only 57% will buy themselves somethin’ pretty, compared to 59% in 2012.

Still, that’s quite a few folks assured of getting at least one gift they really, really like.

Nothing wrong with wanting to treat yourself, especially given some of the prices on Gray Thursday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and every other sale from now until Dec. 24. Not that every “sale” price is a good one; in fact, some aren’t really good deals at all.

But if you’ve been tracking prices, especially for bigger-ticket items like technology and appliances, then I can think of only one reason not to self-gift.

You already know what I’m about to say: If you can’t afford it, then it isn’t a good deal.

Sure, it looks great on you. Yes, you’ve wanted to read/listen to/cook with that particular thing for what seems like forever. But if it’s not in your budget, just say “no.” Or, rather, just say “not now.”

Keeping costs down

That’s not to say that some things aren’t worth charging. For example, suppose your athletic shoes’ soles are in need of salvation. Whether you use them for sport or for walking to work you’re courting an injury in worn-out footwear, so go ahead and buy replacements. Ella Morton of the Women & Co. blog suggests trying shoes on at the end of a shopping trip: “Your feet swell during the day, so you’ll be less likely to buy a size that will ultimately feel too small.”

Suppose you’re a freelancer whose laptop is just not keeping pace with increased job demands. It’s a business expense, even though you’ll have to wait a few months to claim it, and you might even find the model you want on sale during the holidays. Worth buying? Probably – but only if you do your homework.

A price comparison website like or FindersCheapers can give you a reality check by showing you whether that not-to-be-missed price can be beaten elsewhere. Sites like Coupon Sherpa, Retail Me Not and can clue you in as to unadvertised specials, clearance prices and, of course, online coupons (including free shipping).

Two other other money-saving tips:

Cash in points for gift cards. I’m paying for most of my holiday shopping (for other people) with scrip from three rewards credit cards, MyPoints and Swagbucks. (Note: If you join Swagbucks before Dec. 21 you’re eligible for a 500-point bonus; details can be found in this article.)

Use gift cards others give you. One of the good things about being an adult is no one keeps you from opening your gifts before Dec. 25. So if Grandma or your BFF sends you a card rather than a package for the holiday, it’s kosher to open it up and see if there’s some store scrip inside.

Of course, hitting the post-holiday sales with those gift cards would give you extra bang for the buck on certain items, especially apparel. Ain’t no self-gifting like winter clearance self-gifting.

Giving in to impulse?

Before you give yourself license to spend, though, be honest: If you don’t need it and/or can’t afford it, can you truly justify the purchase? In a post on the Credit Sesame blog, Ashley Tate suggests that self-gifting is “really just the same as impulse shopping.”

If you’ve got the bucks and you think you want it, well, it’s your money. But think for a few minutes about other things those funds could support: the down payment on a new home, your retirement fund, college savings for your kids, a really swell vacation someplace warm during a late-January gale.

Full disclosure: I am, in fact, self-gifting this Christmas by flying down to Phoenix to see my daughter. Fortunately I bought the ticket before the late unpleasantness at Microsoft, so I’m not tormented by can-I-afford-it pangs.

Had the job gone south sooner, would I have considered the $600 expense worth it? Yep. Being with people I love is my favorite present-to-me of all.

Besides, today is my birthday and I’m not buying myself anything. I never do. Another year on the planet is reward enough.

So how about it, readers: Are you buying yourself something this year?

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  1. Melissa F

    Happy Birthday Donna! I usually buy myself something small, a new outfit or a purse. This year I am considering a tablet but then I stop and think that I made it since last year without one, what is another year? SO that thought is up in the air. To me, being with friends and family squashes any need for an extravagant gift.

    • Donna Freedman

      Thanks! I’d been thinking about replacing my four-year-old laptop but hesitated (intuition strikes again); when the main source of income went away I was glad I still had my money.
      As for tablets: I won one at FinCon13. It’s a Google Nexus and I’ve barely found time to turn it on and figure it out. My 12-year-old nephew, on the other hand, used it on Thanksgiving at my house — and should I ever want to play them, half a dozen games were downloaded during his visit. I know the device will be useful; just need to figure out how it will benefit me (other than playing Minion Rush).

  2. Happy birthday! I hope you enjoy your trip to see Abby.

  3. Barbara A

    Happy Birthday Donna!!!!!!!

  4. Happy Birthday! I usually buy something for myself. Sometimes it is a pair of shoes I need, sometimes it is reduced gloves or a scarf. It just depends on what I need or want that is reduced. Often, after Christmas and into January I will find a Christmas small serving dish or candy dish that was $20 and is marked down to $3.50. Then, I buy gifts for the next year for my three children and one for me.

    One year in August, I bought a pen for my hens. Two days later, I lost a job and had no idea where my house payment was coming from. That really hurt. I am glad you got the ticket before your job went away.

  5. Happy Birthday, Donna!

    Normally, I don’t usually self-gift for the holidays. However, this year, I have my eye on a pair of boots that I’ve been wanting for a while now, as well as a new wallet (the duct tape stuck to duct tape isn’t working any more on my current one).

    So, I told myself that if I make it through the end of December without buying breakfast and lunches, then I get them in January. So far it is looking good.

    Sadly, I had to resort to bribery to get myself to break the “eating out” habit. In the long run, though (financially and healthily) I’m better off with the boots.

  6. December babies are the best!! I am a bit biased since I was born on December 21st. Have a wonderful birthday!! Also, have a fabulous trip to Phoenix– Oooooo, warm weather!!

  7. A Very Happy B-Day, Donna!

  8. Happy birthday, Donna! For self-gifting, I buy restaurant gift cards that have bonuses attached and then use them in the winter months to stretch the occasional dining out treat further (I and it always bring home a doggie bag)

  9. Mirabella

    Happy birthday to you! I don’t usually buy myself Christmas gifts, but this year I’m keeping my eye out for a lovely pair of black suede boots, so hopefully the holiday deals will keep coming. And does unlimited eggnog count as a self-gift?

  10. Happy Birthday Donna!

    Usually I end up buying myself something for Christmas. Last year I had decided to wait until after Christmas to see if I would get any amazon gift cards, and was going to purchase an item that *never* goes on sale – but wasn’t in any hurry, since they *never* go on sale.

    Then one weekend, the Best Buy flyer came in the Sunday paper, and the item I wanted was $100 off – I still think it was a misprint in the flyer, but Best Buy honored the price, and I saved 25% on my purchase!

    Not sure what I’m going to get this year – I’m pondering a skilsaw, but we’ll see :)

  11. Donna Freedman

    Thanks to all for the birthday wishes! It was a very good day: a free birthday burger at Red Robin and then an afternoon spent with my best friend, followed by a steak dinner cooked by my other best friend (DF). He’s now playing the piano for me and I am promising to shut down and focus on something besides a screen.
    Tomorrow: Off to Talkeetna! Watch for updates.

  12. Aww … I’m sorry I missed your birthday, Donna. I’ve been missing a few things this year. I hope it was happy and stress free. After a recent and unexpected expense of almost $5,000 in total, I too am glad I did not spring for a new computer on my last visit to the US. As for Christmas gift giving, my lovely husband is giving me/us the gift of travel with a trip to Prague, a place I’ve wanted to go for a very long time. Living in the UK makes it a much cheaper journey for us … kind of like flying from Atlanta, Georgia to Kansas in terms of travel time and distance.

  13. Have a great Birthday, Donna! Enjoy your time with your daughter and son-in-law (which I know you will).

  14. Happy belated birthday, Donna! It sounds like you had a very enjoyable day. I haven’t self-gifted for Christmas in many years. I just usually buy what I need as I go along during the year. However, this year I actually bought myself 4 gifts this year. I have had a lousy year at work, so I indulged in a bottle of Disaronno Amaretto so on those really bad days, I can relax at home. The other 3 gifts to myself were flannel pajama pants that Kohl’s had on sale, plus 20% off and free shipping. These are for my “retirement” years when I can stay home in my pajamas all day long.

  15. Yep, already gifted myself a running club and a new book from Amazon! Happy birthday!! I LOVE that you gifted yourself a trip to see your daughter!

  16. Happy belated birthday!

    I’m glad you’ll still be flying down to visit Abby and hope you have a really good long visit.

    I’m not intentionally gifting myself anything, we’re throwing that wedding reception party thing this year and anything I get for that that’s just to entertain me is a gift. I’ll get to keep a few things from it to use for years to come (I hope), some clothes and the like, and that’s good enough for me.

  17. Belated Happy Birthday Donna. I have no problems spending money on my son or buying gifts for other people. I am very bad at buying for myself so maybe this year a little self gift might be in order!

    • Donna Freedman

      I double-dog-dare you to spend a little something on yourself, Ash. If you’re not comfortable with it being indulgent, then make it practical (something warm, say, or a book that will improve your life).
      Merry Christmas.

  18. OMG, I’m a December 5th baby, also. I almost never meet others born then, and in the last month I have heard of three more of us.

    Do you know who my favorite Dec. 5th guy is? Walt Disney. At 65 I’m still a sucker for happy-ever-after Disneyland. Must be some of that 1950s childhood stardust still clinging to me.

    • Donna Freedman

      Walt Disney is the one I always mention, too….Are you going to see “Saving Mr. Banks”?

  19. Oh, absolutely. Walt Disney and Tom Hanks…..a couple of my favorites.

  20. I forgot to mention that I actually saw Walt Disney at Disneyland once. It was around 1965.

  21. Happy birthday!! It’s my son’s birthday on Dec. 5 too. He just turned 4! YAY! What a beautiful date to be born. Hope your day was magical!

  22. Happy belated Birthday Donna, I hope it was a great one! I have finally accepted the fact that I will never use the community gym, so I treated myself early this year and bought a new exercise machine. It actually arrives today. I’m so excited!

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