'Money's a horrid thing to follow, but a charming thing to meet,' wrote Henry James.
For most of us, spending is as much a part of Christmas as pudding, turkey and certain libations.
Yet binge buying is often as common an excess during the holiday season as binge drinking. It can be just as injurious to our health and family life. As James suggested, spending power is a good servant but a terrible master.
Sadly this is a lesson some people will learn the hard way over the next few months, as they measure the impact of the holiday sales on their savings, credit ratings and all-round financial wellbeing.
To boost sales this year, many major stores began discounting prices earlier in the pre-Christmas season.
In spite of this, while the past couple of weeks are normally their busiest time of the year, some shopping centres have remained half empty. This is partly because of the poor physical infrastructure provided near traditional town centres.
High street shopping precincts are struggling to keep up with demand for low-cost, easily accessible parking. High prices on privately owned car parks are driving more and more consumers into the waiting arms of undercover shopping malls.
The early drop in shopper numbers is also the result of a stand-off between shoppers and retailers. It's a contest to see who will blink first and when the real discounts will kick in, to boost sales.
Yet while many bricks-and-mortar stores are seeing slow trading, online shopping and new variations on the same are likely to break all records this year.
A boom in web-sales is now accompanied by a rise in 'click and collect' services. People purchase goods online but collect items in bricks-and-mortar stores.
EBay, for example, allows some customers to pick up goods from their local Argos store. At least 50 eBay retailers are already using the service, in partnership with 150 Argos locations.
Meanwhile, Amazon offers customers the opportunity to collect using purpose-built lockers in various locations around town. The web giant is also plans to reduce items by up to 40 per cent on Christmas Day, reflecting the fact that people are now more willing to buy on the holiday itself than they were a few years ago.
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