Years ago, a bank handed out credit cards to call center employees like candy. They were giddy (or greedy depending on how you looked at it), thinking they found a new market ahead of the competition.
Months and many unpaid accounts later, the bank realized why no one was reaching out to that market: these employees were mostly single and majority spend their salaries even before they get them. When the cash runs out, they swipe their cards not realizing they also have to pay for that out of the same salary that’s flowing out of their hands like sand.
Today is Singles’ Day in China and the rest of the world is paying attention including America’s Pop Sweetheart Taylor Swift who is in our part of the globe headlining a concert for e-commerce giant Alibaba, easily Asia’s largest company.
In China where being single is frowned upon and where parents engage matchmaking services for their adult children, Singles’ Day was born on college campuses protesting the sentimentality of Valentine’s Day. It takes its name from the numerical equivalent of the date, 11/11, which visually resembles four single sticks or bare branches, and locally seen as an expression of being unattached.
It was really an obscure tradition but Alibaba embraced it and turned it into a shopping festival in 2009 on its Taobao website. Eleven years later, it has become the world’s largest single-day sale, even bigger than the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales led by US retailers. Even better (or worse from where you are sitting), as the 11th year of Singles’ Day, that’s 11 more added to 11/11, everything appears to have been supercharged – from the discounts to the participating products and brands.
As a result, expect even more irresistible deals designed to drain your pockets. Bloomberg.com reported that in less than 90 minutes, Alibaba already logged more than 114 billion yuan (or $16.3 billion) of sales. How impressive is that? Well, that was more than half what shoppers spent in last year’s 24-hour event.
If you are single and ready to shop, do you have any chance of surviving with your wallet intact? And not just today but for the rest of the year where retailers are cooking up more holiday sales to unload their old inventory and push new products off the shelves? It won’t be easy but here are single steps you can take, one sale at a time.
#1 Ignore the next door Joneses.
Did you know that one of the top reasons people shop is because they saw their family, friend, officemate or neighbor owning that item? That need to have what others have is known as “keeping up with the Joneses” and it has always landed people in shopping trouble.
It’s a recipe for disaster because if you really needed it, chances are you would already have it. The bottom line is that many people live beyond their means, and that may include that friend with the item you covet. Maybe if you could see his credit card statement, you would have a different opinion.
So, the next time you’re about to make that big purchase, ask yourself if you are you doing it for appearance. If your answer is yes, because you want to look more financially successful, stop and save that money instead.
#2 Avoid getting drunk on impulse buying – the hangover can last for months.
All those deep discounts can give you quite a high and some shoppers have reported waking up the next day with new pets! One shared in social media that he was surprised to learn he purchased a discounted pig. He did not stop there: he also paid for a giant salamander and peacock.
Most impulse buys cover things a person "wants" not "needs" and those wants can take you down the dark path of debt. Impulse shopping has also been reported to be tied to one’s emotional state, say it has been a really tough week at work and you wanted to reward yourself. Or you just landed a promotion and now want to look the part of a more successful you.
Nothing bad with giving yourself a well-deserved pat in the back and consoling yourself with some retail therapy. But before you hit checkout in that online cart, take a minute to ask yourself some questions. Are you purchasing this item or service because you really need it? Will you regret it even before it is delivered? Will your wallet take another beating it cannot afford just yet?
#3 Find a No Shopping Buddy to help you survive the rest of the spending season.
I have friends that are great with shopping. It’s always fun to go out with them, try new clothes, accessories, even make up. Then we come home with hands full of shopping bags and lighter pockets. And then I try an avoid them for the next few weeks when I wake up the next day with one too many shopping regrets.
Many of us have these friends. Nothing wrong with them, and I feel that they also think of me the same way: I made them buy things they do not really need because we all wanted to buy something together and then share our loot on social media.
So now I make sure I also have No Shopping Buddies. These are friends that understand that when you go out, you do so just to spend time with each other. We also trade white elephants: what I have and do not need and what they have and do not need go together into one pile and we switch around. It’s a great recipe for No Spending and when you especially do it around the holidays, it’s 100 percent guaranteed to clear out clutter in your closet so you can make room for new things you did not even need to pay for.
#4 Wish lists and shopping carts can be your online shopping best friends.
Some people have the mental strength to become online shopping strangers during sales. Sadly, I am not one of them. I like to window shop and see what’s on offer and sometimes that leads me to pressing the checkout button.
So when someone suggested I hit wish lists and add to cart buttons instead, I discovered I can park what I like and then revisit them until I am ready to checkout. Many actually end up getting deleted in the harsh light of the next day.
This neat trick is actually encouraged by retailers because it also helps them better manage their volume of returns and refunds. Online shoppers tend to change their mind and that has a cost on both the shopper and the retailer. So until you are “sure na sure”, do not hit that checkout button.
Smart shoppers for Singles’ Day actually plan their purchases days ahead and leave the items on the cart. They hit checkout on 11/11 because that’s when the rebates and best discounts kick in. Now that’s some smart singles shopping!
#5 Beyond Singles’ Day, it’s okay to mingle but pay your own way.
Part of being single is having (or trying to have) an active social life. This means going out with friends and colleagues for drinks and dinner one or several times a week. That can drain your wallet but we also all need a break so go ahead and indulge if you can pay for it.
But watch out for pooled tabs. If you don’t drink, it’s not fair to split the beer with others who drink like a fish. Or if you did not eat dinner and only joined them for coffee, paying a full share is also not fair at all.
It can be uncomfortable raising this while everyone is already digging out their wallets so you may want to point this out before you join in. When invited, you can say that you don’t drink, but you will be okay to split the tab for the meals.
Life happens so it’s always good to have your money ready, single or not.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.