Arms look through clothing rack in a store.

How to spend more mindfully this shopping season

Increase your well-being and safeguard your financial health with our mindful holiday shopping guide.

6 min read

As we enter the festive season, many of us are gearing up for weeks of holiday shopping, Black Friday deals, and last-minute impulse buys. It can be stressful at best and overwhelming at worst. However, it is possible to navigate this festive time more mindfully and reduce any gift-buying anxiety. Here are a few ways you might be able to shop more mindfully this holiday shopping season according to an N26 expert. 

How to mindfully navigate Black Friday (yes, it’s possible!)

Black Friday is one of the biggest holiday shopping events of the year, but the day has become increasingly associated with unsustainable consumption, dodgy deals, and fake online shops. As Jen Christoph, Director of Product at N26 puts it, “I think we have all experienced the hype around Black Friday that pulls us into a rush of excitement and impulse buys that may be followed by guilt, and sometimes even regret." But, Jen argues, there are many ways to remain mindful while shopping this Black Friday. Here’s how to do it.

1. Question the “why” behind your purchase

Before opening your laptop or entering a shop, Jen suggests making a list of all the items you want to buy before you start shopping. This reduces the chances of making any impulse buys and keeps your Black Friday shopping basket focused and to a minimum. However, Jen highlights that it’s a good idea to revisit this list regularly, “write down the things you desire but critically question their importance after some time. If you still desire them, great. If not, toss them.”

Going one step further, Jen suggests digging a little deeper and asking yourself exactly why you want to purchase these items. “Wishes and materialistic needs are often influenced by external factors such as advertisements, opinion leaders, societal pressures, but also the way we were brought up and the beliefs we were taught," Jen states. "We should try to question what is driving us to desire certain things, in order to foster a healthier and more sustainable way of life."

2. Get to grips with your budget

To approach Black Friday more mindfully, it’s important to safeguard your financial health. This means understanding exactly how much money you are able to put towards festive gifts without undermining any savings goals or putting any necessary expenditures (fixed costs) at risk. As Jen states, “while it may seem boring, knowing and understanding exactly one’s monthly income and fixed and variable expenses is essential for defining a healthy spending budget – both for allocating a monthly spending allowance or a seasonal event shopping spree.”

If you’d like to get to grips with your finances but are new to budgeting, the 50/30/20 budget method is a great place to start as it’s geared toward budgeting beginners.

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3. Be aware of these Black Friday retailer tricks

When it comes to Black Friday, Jen states, some cunning retailers have a few tricks up their sleeves. “There are shops that raise prices well above the usual price in the weeks leading up to Black Friday so that, when the actual day arrives, they can promote a substantial drop while going hardly below the original price.” Additionally, “further costs are added at check-out or need to be paid separately, such as customs, also reducing the final discount.” So, before browsing the Black Friday sales, do your research and identify the regular cost of the items you want so you can identify if you’re snapping up a bargain or not.

Lastly, Jen reminds us not to get fooled by flashy signs and pushy copywriting, “on average, Black Friday sales are around 25%. Anything below is likely not the deal of a lifetime, even if it’s announced as such.”

4. Fake online shops, and how to avoid them

Unfortunately, scammers also take advantage of the Black Friday shopping frenzy by creating fake online shops and scamming their victims out of millions each year. As Jen states, there are several tell-tale signs to look out for when purchasing anything online, “fake shops usually have only one online presence and are lacking public reviews, interactions, and information. Furthermore, they often offer only one method of payment, usually direct bank transfer in advance, which makes it very difficult for the customer to claim back the money in case of a crime.” 

If you suspect a site you’re browsing could be a fake shop, stop interacting with the site, “never click on links sent to you via email or SMS, and, if done on a market place, report the supplier immediately.” 

5. Take a different approach to Black Friday

Perhaps one of the most mindful approaches to Black Friday is to avoid succumbing to the consumption chaos altogether. Several brands are ahead of the curve and use the occasion to actively do some good in the world. Sustainable sneaker brand, Komrads, for instance, takes their shop offline during Black Friday and instead links to sustainable blogs, documentaries, and podcasts. IKEA uses the date to host a “Buy Back Friday” where customers send back their old IKEA items to the “circular hub” in return for a voucher. Last year, Patagonia donated its Black Friday profits to charity. 

As Jen points out, “supporting causes that one feels strongly about always has a positive influence on mental well-being. So why not combine this with your shopping?” Aside from supporting some of the brands pushing for a more sustainable Black Friday, donating to a charitable cause that aligns with your values is also a fantastic use of your Black Friday funds!

Rethinking holiday shopping

The festive season is usually a time to come together with loved ones, share good food, and exchange gifts. However, buying presents can quickly become an anxiety-inducing and expensive experience. To make it a little less stressful, here are a few tips to help reframe your approach to this season’s gift-giving.

The best things in life are often free

Sometimes, buying a present is easier than taking the time to create a personalized gift from scratch. But, the personal touch can create gifts that are remembered for many years to come. By opting to make gifts this year, you may not only save money and shield yourself from the intensity of holiday shopping, but you might also discover a new hobby.

Keep it sustainable

For many, shopping mindfully also means shopping sustainably. In the holiday shopping madness, sustainability is often overlooked in favor of convenience and a cheap deal. However, by shopping locally, gifting your loved ones experiences, memberships, or charitable donations, or by shopping second-hand or fair trade, you can seriously reduce the footprint of this year’s gifts.

Treat yourself—but not impulsively

Shopping mindfully doesn't have to mean depriving yourself. While buying gifts for others, it can also be nice to give yourself a treat, especially if you see a great deal for something you’ve wanted for a while. However, be wary of making impulsive buying decisions. Before committing to a purchase, take a minute to pause. Then, ask yourself whether you actually want or need the item or if the retailer is creating a false sense of urgency around it. Aggressive marketing surrounding the session can often cloud your better judgement.


Your Money at N26

As an N26 card holder, holiday shopping doesn’t have to break the bank. With Spaces, you can create multiple sub-accounts each attached to a different savings goal, i.e. for Black Friday gifts. This makes storing away some extra cash each month that little bit easier. Plus, with N26 Insights, your spending will be automatically categorized, helping you to stay on budget and avoid those impulse buys.

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