West Lafayette, Indiana - A Purdue University professor suggests controlling holiday expenses by controlling emotions. He also says thinking of year-round expenses might prevent costly splurges on unneeded items.
Lalatendu Acharya, an assistant professor in the Department of Consumer Science, believes financial literacy and human emotions don't always go well together.
"We tend to pride ourselves on being rational human beings and we're not," he said. "We get influenced by emotions, which is not a mistake but if we make a decision based on emotions that is when mistakes occur."
Acharya says there are many ways of being happy or expressing love, but emotions must be managed as we really cannot remove the layer of emotions. We have to improve our emotional intelligence when making holiday purchases.
"Emotions have a significant influence on increased purchases of food and increased shopping. I look at the necessity of items," he said. "We all have a lot of junk in our houses. I have to look at alternative options and derive the same pleasure or sense of attainment to create a connection with my family. Just a moment of reflection is important."
He cites the example of interest-free deals or long-term credit payments. "Nothing in life is free, and if we spend we have to pay that back," Acharya said. "Take, for example, people who buy new houses. They have to fill it up with a washer, dryer and maybe a juicer. Every finance company makes it worthwhile during the holidays by offering a discount. Say the payment is $100 a month for 18 months, but that money is now out of my budget. It turns out I only have $50 in my wallet for the rest of each month for the term of the free financing."
Acharya studies consumer behavior and focuses his research on health issues. He says consumer behaviors related to personal finance and health are intimately related. "If I slip on ice and fall down it hurts my wallet," he said. "Health expenses generally have a big impact on your disposable income for the year."
He said health expenses must be considered around the holidays, which may mean "you really can't buy that $250 juicer."
He said consumers need to focus more on what they spend. "If you can have a holiday budget, have a budget. It's difficult because financial literacy is not a huge thing in the U.S. If I buy a new smart phone for $1 per day on a two-year contract, do I realize I'm paying $750 over the next two years? These are things we must be aware of during the holidays."