Why we overspend during the holidays

  • Levi J Webb/iStockphoto

    By Donna Freedman/GOBankingRates.com

    Black Friday has company: It's now preceded by Gray Thursday and followed by Cyber Monday, and you can bet that deals will be popping up all day Saturday and Sunday, as well.

    Oh, goody: More ways to spend money we might not actually have.

    A combination of factors conspires to loosen our wallets each November and December. Holiday carols and images of Old St. Nick in the stores. Family traditions that seem to get more expensive every year. That annoying cousin who talks about how much he spent on his wife and kids. Endless ads that trumpet the Best sale ever.

    Underneath it all, maybe, is the fear that if you don't do the holidays right then no one will love you.

    What drives a lot of our behavior is "a sense that there's something wrong with us, that we're not good enough," according to psychotherapist Kate Levinson, author of "Emotional Currency: A Woman's Guide to Building a Healthy Relationship With Money."

    "To make us feel good about ourselves, we do what good people do: They give a lot of gifts to other people," Levinson said.

    Personal and commercial expectations are formidable, but they can be vanquished. Figure out why you're feeling pressured to overspend, and you're less likely to do so.