Or alternately titled: How I Ended Up Shopping For Two {my giftees and I}.

Originally written for It's Time!

Is it just me or were the recent holidays too overrated? I spent the last four weekends of December holed up in the cave that is my room. With a ration of three five meals a day, lovingly served by Manang, a bathroom I can drag myself into in five seconds, comforters, stacks of DVDs acquired from a recent Astrovision sale and wifi, I came to ignore the world, or Manila, for that matter, while the city spins itself into a web of frenzy over Christmas shopping and parties.

During these weekends, I was well aware that it couldn’t be any worse if I postpone my mandatory gift shopping, lest I endure my godkids’ disgruntled pouts and disown-ment, if that was possible.

And so, in between a (mandatory) night out and Christmas party presentation practice, I sneaked my way out into Greenbelt and willed myself to get everything I needed to give. I listed every single gift I had to buy, made a flowchart of the stores where I can buy these so I can save time and effort (I was in 4 inches platform heels, too) and set out on the great Christmas shopping journey.

Oh how I loved the fact that I got all my gifts (mostly books and stationery) in one easy trip toPowerbooks. I handed the SA my list and off he went to get it. I tinkered with the shelf that had little thingamajigs and bought XX of them for random people I was gifting them to. After 10 minutes, the cashier was punching my purchases and I was counting down to ten until I could dash of and head to my next destinations.

You could guess that my holiday shopping went well, and really, it did. I was able to buy all the things I needed to get and I did not go over budget, too.

The thing is, the one that I did not see coming was my trip back to the office parking. On my way, I passed by Converse and immediately, my thoughts of getting new classic Chucks (how oxymoronic is that?) immediately rushed in and the next thing I know was that I was at the counter, giddy over my white slim fit canvass shoes.

From Glorietta, I walked into the sea of people that was Landmark (never a fan of the crowd in there) and yet managed to fall in line and acquire a set of bathroom fixtures and a shirt with a tiger on it. How I did that in a matter of 10 minutes still amazes me to this day.

As if that wasn’t enough, I wandered back into Greenbelt and just when I thought I was done and saw all that there was to see, I saw the familiar pink #FF0066-ish lights of La Senza and a phrase single word that might as well be the death of me: SALE. Like a rat being called by the Pied Piper of Hamelin, I walked into the store and for the third time that night: I was soon at the counter being handed a huge white bag full of things in animal prints.

 Just as clueless.

Rude Awakening: Never starve yourself from the inalienable right of shopping.

Yes, this was supposed to be a post related to financial planning and therefore it should sound more noble but the danger in a shopping diet is quite there. I have kept myself away from the clink of the cash registers, from the madness of my kin weekend shoppers, from the thrill of touching and owning something you’ve lost sleep over (the Chucks, in my case). And I paid for it, quite unnecessarily.

One useful trick in preventing going over budget is spreading expenses over periods of time.

As I have learned in the process of writing this article, in times of mandatory shopping, ergo, Christmas shopping, it’s notable to carefully plot gifts and their prices to avoid over spending. That said, conscientious budgeting is key in ensuring we do not go bonkers at the sight of a Sale! sign. Through this rather painful exercise, I realized, that even if I’ve dodged the shopping bullet for many a consecutive weekend, it’s also good to not completely deprive oneself of little things, shopping or otherwise. It may be the case of dieting for two months and going on a binge diet at the sight of a humongous cake from Conti’s.

As with anything in life, moderation is key.

There wasn’t any compelling reason for me to stay away from Christmas shopping other than fear of crowds, unbearable heaviness of bad traffic and scarcity of parking space. Would you believe I have not stepped into a bazaar last Christmas season? Yet, the repercussions were massive dents on my credit card, payable but totally, utterly unnecessary had I taken my shopping pills religiously. Just like good and bad bacteria, we sometimes need a dose of bad to immune the system. I seem to have forgotten to drink my Yakult.

In realistic life city living, I realized I needed to constantly reward myself however small, so that I don’t end up getting ballooned up with material desires and blowing off in tremendous, expensive fits.

As a new year’s resolution, I vow not stay away from shopping. I will immune myself with the bad so that I wouldn’t be inconvenienced with such unnecessary inconveniences.

Starting right this weekend.