In the midst of this holiday season, we spenders have to face quite a bit of temptation out there. While I do believe it is possible to turn a spender into a saver, I also know it will not always be easy. Case in point: my recent Etsy adventure. (If you don’t already know what Etsy is, please don’t blame me for introducing you!) While attempting to buy cheap, nice holiday presents for my aunt and cousin, I was quickly sidetracked by ALL! THE! CUTE! STUFF! (and SO! CHEAP!) Next thing I know, it’s three hours later and my shopping cart list has ballooned to over 15 items. Only 2 of which are for people other than me!

So what stopped me from hitting the buy button, and draining my paypal account? A simple, and quick, exercise that has now become part of my buying routine. I like to call it “Do you need it?” Basically, I review my purchases while asking myself “Do I need this right now? Can I continue my day-to-day routine happily without it?” And obviously, the answer is usually no. Except for the rare time I run out of lotion, or cooking oil, for the most part, I don’t really “need” to buy much in order to maintain the current status quo.

But when I’m in the act of shopping, I can very easily convince myself that I “need” that sparkly new necklace, or that rare honey from Italy. Which is why now I’m allowing myself to load up my shopping cart and feel the freedom of isolating the “things I like” from the rest. This eases a physic battle I constantly feel when confronted with things I like but I should not buy.

By allowing myself the few minutes of having said item in my shopping cart, I can now go through the act of not buying it much more easily. Not until just before I start paying do I then go through the items in my cart and ask the above questions. Putting the items I wanted back on the shelf is oddly much less painful than attempting to not put it in the cart in the first place. Usually, about 95% of the items get discarded, leaving me with only the items I really need.

Now, this may seem crazy to those of you who are not spenders, but for those of us who are, you know how hard the holiday season can be. Using this simple test can help you curb your spending tendencies, and allowing yourself the freedom to go hog wild- but just for a minute-, will satisfy your inner shopper. And honestly, every time I played out this little game at a store (even online), I always left feeling a little triumphant- as if I’d beaten my spending habits into submission, and was now replacing them with the new thrill of saving.

For those of you who maybe need a little bit more encouragement to curb your spending habits, the National Endowment for Financial Education® has created a great new website called Spendster, where people share stories of buying useless junk and learn what they could have saved instead. It might seem a little bleak to share all your shopping foibles with the rest of the Internet, but having a forum to share even your most embarrassing purchases (and view others) provides a sense of community, and solidarity, in our struggles. If Weight Watchers food diaries do the trick for over-eaters, then surely Spendster will help us spenders learn to manage our money better. Especially when I see that the $35 dollars I spent on felt flowers recently could have been $168 in a high-interest savings account 40 years from now!

What do you do during the holiday season to keep from unnecessary shopping? How do you differentiate between needs and wants while in the moment of buying? Do you have any tips to saving during the holidays?

Photo credit: stock.xchng.