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  • Writer's pictureGary Grewal

How to Resist the Urge to Splurge: Tis the Season for Overpriced Decorations

So that now fall is well under way (except if you’re in parts of CA or AZ where it’s still 85 degrees, and you’re sweating through your flannel shirt to get the perfect pictures at the pumpkin patch) you might be tempted to cheer yourself up after another challenging year by buying lots of decorations, entertaining supplies, and gifts.

Remember the Christmas Tree shortage last year? Well it’s projected to happen again this year, and not just because of wildfires and a dwindling supply. It’s also everything that happens in between the Christmas Tree farm, and picking it up at your grocery store. Warehouse workers, drivers, retail workers, and others are in short supply.

It used to be that you could drive up to your local hardware store or grocery store, and there would be nicely wrapped trees for you to peruse through and choose from. Or the family tradition of going to pick out your own fresh cut tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. Now, in October, retailers are already warning that they may not have nearly the same supply of trees as in previous years. Is it just a ploy to create a sense of FOMO in customers and raise prices? Maybe, but there’s bigger supply chain issues at play.

The backlog of ships unable to unload at US ports is another headache everyone has to deal with. I can’t believe some news anchors are already warning customers, as I write this at the beginning of October, to go on the hunt for Christmas presents now as you may now find them next month. Do people ever just pause and do a reality check? I mean, shoppers are actually seeing therapists and getting massages due to the stress of the shortage of toys and decorations this year! Seriously, there are far bigger problems, and if that’s your only concern, go watch some holiday movies and consider yourself lucky.

All of this is to say that you might have some sense of urgency stirring in you after you read article after article about how blow-up Santas, string lights, fake reindeer, and other holiday staples are in short supply. As happens in economics, as the supply dwindles, demand increases. And that results in higher prices. Are you willing to pay double the price of a festive centerpiece that you don’t even like, because you're afraid of being labeled as the Grinch come Christmas Dinner?

For those of you that have young kids, I empathize with you. I don’t want to be in your position of paying through the nose for the hottest toy and shipping just to make sure your kids are happy on Christmas morning. Maybe that’s an opportunity to teach them about FI and materialism, and give them the gift that keeps on giving with Financial Fives instead! Or just take their minds off it and buy tickets to the Zoo instead, the one by us does amazing events including a holiday themed one that kid’s love.

Now anyone that knows me, knows I absolutely love the holidays, especially Christmas. For those of you that have read my book, you’ll know the details of my hot chocolate stand and holiday-themed parties. I’m not saying don’t celebrate, I’m just saying don’t buy into the hype of “missing out on Christmas”.

If you truly want more decorations and have the space for them in your house, consider waiting until after the holidays to find them marked down 50% or more. Goodwill and other thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, and garage sales (yes, Gen Z, those still exist) are great ways to snag them on the cheap. I bought a $3 bag of ornaments in 2019 at a thrift store, the weekend after Thanksgiving, and a comparable box at Target was about $20.

You can also make it a family event and make your own decorations. I even found free holiday decorations and party supplies when I approached the catering company throwing holiday parties at the office buildings nearby, and was amazed to see the surplus they had. Now that many people are working from home, this may not be the best option, but check with event planning companies. Because many events are still not happening this year, they may be looking to unload some items at a big discount.

If you’re still not able to find what you want and are feeling the holiday blues, remember that you don’t need to stuff your abode with your own decor and gifts. You’d be surprised to see the places that have amazing decorations all around town. Let them take on the expense and hassle of setting them up, and you can go enjoy it (talk about living in the moment).

Hotels, coffee shops, food halls, gardens, museums, city offices, retail centers, and more pay good money to deck the halls. If you’re coming up against a short supply and high prices, give yourself the gift of experience. You can create your own “Trail of Lights” and map out all the places in your town that have decor or events coming up that you can check out.

You can also think about repurposing things you have instead of buying new ones. That potted fern? Hand some ornaments on it. The black weed-blocking netting for landscaping? Cut out some pumpkins and tape them to your window. There are lots of options to upcycle what you have and avoid the rush to buy overpriced decor all together.

At the end of the day, remember that what matters is your health, your relationships, and your place in the world. It’s a great time of year to write out what you are thankful for (Thanksgiving comes at the right time each year!) and look at the big picture of life. If you don’t stuff your house with overpriced and cheaply made decor, is it going to matter next summer? Next Christmas? While you’re laughing with friends over your burned pecan pie? Probably not. When the going gets tough, laughter is the best medicine.


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