One For You, Three For Me

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Most of us have to admit that we’re guilty of buying many things for ourselves when we shop for others. And, retailers understand this behavior all too well. Have you seen the section on their website that says, “To You, From You”? It includes headlines like “Before you lavish your loved ones, take time to treat yourself.” In fact, a National Retail Federation study in 2015 found that over 55% of consumers plan to treat themselves during the holiday season.

Self-gifting is defined as a symbolic act of giving to oneself and is related to circumstances and different situations. It’s different from buying items for daily use or part of your routine. For example, a cup of coffee at Starbucks usually purchased on Monday, becomes a self-gift when it’s purchased on Friday afternoon after a tough week. Giving to others is a means to build or strengthen a relationship. However, giving to oneself usually involves rewarding yourself for some expenditure of time and effort or for making yourself feel better. 

During the holidays we are stressed, time-starved, and may feel burdened with the need to buy for others. This causes us to want to reward ourselves for all of our effort. Retailers understand that we are even more susceptible during the holidays. As a result, they begin to intensify their marketing messages to fuel our desire to reward ourselves. They use messages such as “Treat yourself at Christmas” or “You deserve a break.”  Seeing the success in past years, they continue to refine their messages and structure sales to appeal to our desire to reward ourselves, including the ever-popular “Buy one, get one.” Guess who the second one is for?

Of course, the message here is not to discourage you from buying things for yourself. It’s simply to be aware that when you find yourself buying more for you than others, you may not be buying out of need, but rather to solve some problem or to reward yourself. When we’re tired, stressed, or caught up in the moment, we don’t make the best decisions. One simple thing you can do before you pull out your credit card to buy something for yourself is to ask, “Why I’m doing this?” or “Do I need this?”. And if you still want to buy it, take a moment to do something else before you make the purchase. You may find that after a few minutes the impulse is gone and you saved yourself time and money. 

We are more vulnerable to retailers’ messages this time of year because our self-control is weakened by our lack of self-care. We strongly encourage you to maintain, and if possible, intensify your mindfulness practice and other components of your self-care plan. This includes eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. You might find out that taking care of yourself over the next few weeks may prevent you from having to make those onerous New Year’s resolutions.

SOURCE: Park, J. (2018). Self-gifting as a therapeutic reward: motivational approach for self-gifting promotions. Journal of Marketing Communications24(1), 17-34.