Grab your credit cards and comfortable shoes: There are only two cycles left till the end-of-the-year holidays, which means it’s time to start your holiday shopping! Or at least plan your strategy to make it easier.
Lucky for you, whether you’re hunting down gifts for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or Festivus, you can make this year’s spending marathon stress-free one simple way: Sync your shopping list with your monthly cycle!
Read on to find out which stores will make you happiest–and which overspending pitfalls to avoid–based on where you are in your cycle…
Week 1: Shower local shops with love
Day 1 (first day of period) to Day 7
Plan to do holiday shopping during Week 1 of your cycle? Consider visiting mom-and-pop stores and neighborhood boutiques. The reason? These kinds of intimate, close-to-home retailers tend to be easier to travel to, less crowded and set up in a way that helps you find what you want faster.
That’s good news since low estrogen at the start of this cycle phase combined with period-related aches and fatigue can mean you’ve got limited mental and physical energy–which can get easily drained when dealing with long, traffic-filled trips to mega-stores, navigating aisle after aisle of stuff and weaving around a gazillion other shoppers.
Another bonus of smaller, privately-owned retailers at this point in your cycle? As your estrogen rises throughout your Week 1, you enjoy chatting with others more, so you’ll appreciate the personalized attention and homey friendliness that typically come from the owners and staff at these kinds of businesses.
To save money: Bring your shopping list with you–and stick to it. This will help you avoid filling your cart with lots of impulse items for yourself (such as bath products, beauty items and anything placed strategically close to a cash register), which you’re prone to do in your Week 1 as a way to counter menstrual discomfort.
Week 2: Take on crowds and traffic
Day 8 to ovulation (which is Day 14 in a 28-day cycle)
Have a holiday list that includes items you can only get from mega-stores or retailers that are located far, far away? Pencil in these shopping trips for your Week 2 (the week leading up to and including ovulation).
On these cycle days, estrogen rises till it reaches its peak and you also get a slight bump in testosterone at the end of this week. Together, these elevated hormones are giving you more energy, endurance, optimism, flexibility and patience than you have during any other time in your cycle. As a result, it’s far easier to brave huge crowds, snarled traffic, extra-long lines and any grumpy overworked salespeople you encounter while keeping holiday spirits high.
These rising hormones also make you crave adventure and new experiences, so taking a long trip, visiting an unfamiliar shop and going on a big hunt for the exact item you want is actually fun.
To save money: Take time to comparison shop and look for coupons and deals before purchasing gifts so you can get them at a lower price. High estrogen and testosterone are ratcheting up your confidence and optimism, making you feel like you’ve got more money to spend than you really do, which can lead you to buying an item despite its over-inflated price tag.
High hormones also make you easily persuaded by an enthusiastic sales pitch because you’re quicker to catch someone else’s revved excitement. So, if you notice that an energetic salesperson seems to be successful at convincing you to buy an item that is way out of your budget or that you didn’t plan on purchasing, pause and walk away so you can think about it in a quiet place. You may find that once your emotions have had a chance to cool, the item isn’t worth the extra expense.
Week 3: Aim for convenience
Begins day after ovulation and lasts 8 days (which is Day 15 to Day 22 in a 28-day cycle)
During the eight days following ovulation, progesterone rises–and as this sedating hormone climbs, it can sap your energy and endurance, leading you to tire out more quickly than in the previous two weeks of your cycle.
As a result, you’ll likely be happiest when you can limit your time at stores. One way to do this is by ordering items online ahead of time and picking them up at the store. Another way is by visiting one-stop shops and department stores that have lots of different types of items all under one roof, enabling you to get more gift-buying done with fewer trips around town.
To save money: Stash snacks in your purse, like nuts or a cereal bar. Progesterone is making you hungrier during your Week 3, and a 2010 study shows that hungry shoppers make worse buying decisions than those with full bellies.(1)
Also keep in mind that research shows you’re willing to spend higher amounts on others during this cycle phase.(2) That’s a side effect of elevated progesterone, which inspires you to lavish friends and family with gifts to show your affection. Keep in mind that they’d still love you with more reasonably priced presents that are just as thoughtful.
Week 4: Get it delivered
Final 6 days of your cycle
When you’ve got holiday shopping to do, you may want to turn to the Internet, catalogs and home shopping channels, then have your gifts delivered.
And there’s good reason: On these premenstrual days, estrogen plunges–and it can take your patience with jostling crowds, honking traffic and cranky, pushy salespeople down with it.
That’s because as estrogen drops lower and lower, it reduces the level of certain brain chemicals that help keep your mood and resilience high. This makes is tougher to keep up your holiday spirits in the face of any annoyance you may (ahaha–let’s face it, will) come across.
This pre-period drop in estrogen also makes you more sensitive to pain–such as being bumped, stepped on or elbowed by fellow shoppers in their mad dash for the last on-sale item. That’s not exactly a recipe for a fun day out at the mall.
To save money: Try to avoid going overboard on high-priced “medicinal shopping” for yourself (for instance, splashing out on diamond earrings or a designer handbag). Research shows you’re more likely to turn to expensive splurges during your premenstrual phase as a way to combat descending hormone irritability and achiness.(3)
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(1) “Metabolic State Alters Economic Decision Making under Risk in Humans”, PLOS ONE, June 16, 2010, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0011090
(2) “Menstrual cycle effects on prosocial orientation, gift giving, and charitable giving”, Journal of Business Research, March 2018, sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S014829631730437X
(3) “Women’s Spending Behavior is Menstrual Cycle Sensitive”, Personality and Individual Differences, January 2011, sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886910004289