In store windows and magazines, on televisions and billboards and whispered through the lips of every suburban mother is the same thing – the 2006 Holiday Season is upon us. Grab your carts and prepare to overheat that little piece of plastic, because the unbelievable bargains are here!It’s been one week since Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t long after the tryptophan wore off when bright-eyed shoppers buttoned up and tore through the superstores. The search was on for the best deals, as if lives hung in the balance. The holiday season puts the idea of shopping overload in perspective. Every time a major sale makes its presence known, Andrew Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant emerge to pay for that unbelievable pair of Ugg boots.Perhaps we are stepping a tad over the hypothetical line. There is what I like to call the “Smart Shopping Zone” and the “Excessive Shopping Zone” – the names are clever, I know. Many seem lost in the latter of these zones. With every turn, there is a red tag indicating “20% OFF!” or “HALF PRICE!” and the mind ticks like the heart of a ready-to-pounce cat. However, just because something is on sale, does that mean it must be bought? Or rather, are you caught in the “high of the buy?” Try a new method – eat when you are absolutely starving. In other words, buy responsibly and each purchase will feel better. I’ve walked into Wegmans several times now. I admit, I’ve noticed several bargains, each of which brings a certain temptation, but how much do we really need of what we want? Will that quart of $4.99 ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s taste so good when you realize an hour later you have no laundry money? Admittedly, one day I snapped. I walked into Wegmans on a cold Saturday three weeks ago and discovered folding chairs, each discounted, yes, 20 percent. So far I had not bought more than one thing at Wegmans and, since it happened to be shampoo, I can forgive such a rash impulse. I had been looking for a good chair, and this one had a comfortable, cushioned seat. I walked out of Wegmans, chair in hand. I still don’t regret it.Impulsive? Definitely. Anything you don’t plan on buying when entering a store is impulsive. Nevertheless, I put a great deal of thought into my purchase. Is it practical? Is it smart consuming? In every case, the answer was yes. Generally, most people probably start this way when they shop, but the thinking doesn’t last. Won’t renting the video game be just as good as buying it and much cheaper? Couldn’t you just knit a scarf? It’s time to learn that, even if the price is right, the purchase might not be.Brenneman can be reached at

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