5 Tips to Save Money on Holiday Shopping
The holidays are a special time of year, and they obviously come with a certain amount of gift-giving for most people. The joy of the holidays can come with its stresses however, not the least of which is the realization that a tight budget can cramp the style of the giver.
While styles and trends change with each holiday season, saving money on holiday shopping as a practical matter never really goes out of style. With proper planning, it’s possible to stay within budget while keeping the Grinch at bay. So, what are some of the best ways to save on holiday shopping? Let’s take a closer look.
Know Your Holiday Budget
The first rule to saving money during the holiday season is to have a clearly defined budget. We already should have a clear, written monthly budget in place all year round, and knowing what our surplus disposable cash is each month can help define the level of our holiday budget.
However, especially for those individuals living paycheck to paycheck, there actually isn’t very much extra cash each month at all. Therefore, as a general rule – especially when using credit cards becomes part of the holiday spending equation – keep your holiday budget to no more than three times your monthly surplus. In this way, you can plan to pay back the majority of your holiday credit card expenditures by the end of the first quarter.
Make Your List
Next, create a list of recipients with your budget in mind, prioritizing and allocating amounts to each individual. This may involve checking your list twice – and you may have to make some unpleasant decisions when it comes to specific amounts.
The holidays can be an emotional time during which it becomes easy to overspend. However, it’s important to remain levelheaded and realistic when it comes to your holiday budget – even if that means possibly removing people from your list.
You have to do what you have to do – it’s your personal finances, and only you know your situation best. Recognize that you will be able to give to those who mean the most to you, and when you get more creative about giving some homemade, personal, meaningful gifts – as opposed to expensive store-bought gifts – the giving process shifts a little bit away from the financial and a little bit more toward the heartfelt.
Here’s where planning comes in. Once you have your budget and list, begin reflecting upon what specific gift may be suitable for each person on your list and search online for the best price.
Starting with an Amazon search is never a bad idea, and you can follow up with Walmart.com and Jet.com, as well. This will give you a quick idea of prevailing market prices, which you can either endeavor to beat through a local bricks and mortar search in your area or with a further Google search.
Point is, do not simply go to the stores in your area before checking online first, and utilizing a service such as Honey while purchasing online will automatically help you save with coupons and additional discounts.
Avoid Impulse Buys
Taking advantage of Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday becomes a lot easier when we’ve planned ahead with a written list and budget. Instead of taking shots in the dark when these massive sales days arrive, we can have our gift targets lined up like ducks in a row and benefit from temporarily lower prices.
We want to be locked and loaded when these sales days arrive so that we can take advantage while resisting falling prey to any form of impulse shopping – even on sale days!
Marketers are well aware that consumer emotions run high with anticipation of these days so they emphasize the urgency of capturing value amid the holiday spirit, so its important that we have specific parameters in place that prevent us from giving into the excitement of the moment.
When we are strategically prepared with a firm idea of what we’re looking for and why we are buying it, our chances of making an unwise impulse purchase are greatly reduced.
Timing is Everything
Immediately following peak shopping season, retailers often mark down prices in an effort clear out unsold inventory. More expensive items such as electronics, furniture, and even automobiles are often marked down, so do some detective work by having face-to-face conversations with employees at retail locations to gain a sense of what products might get marked down, and when.
Let your recipient know that they will be receiving something “worth waiting for” in a written note and then surprise them when the price is right a week or two later. Here’s another idea – how about doing your holiday shopping all year round? Not many people consider this approach, but it actually is a good one.
Apart from relieving any last minute pressure, buying for the people who you know will inevitably be on your list makes it allowable to capture value at any time, at any store you happen to find yourself in, on any given day throughout the year.
It’s pretty common to spot deals on thoughtful, less expensive gifts at stores such as TJMaxx or HomeGoods that can be socked away for holiday gift-giving – particularly for older people less inclined to care about the latest technology or gadget.
Keep Your Receipts and Stay Safe
It is always wise to hold onto receipts in the event that a return becomes necessary. Fact is, we may have the best of intentions when it comes to gift selection, but inevitably, we can still miss the mark.
Clothes can be bought in the wrong size (or style), electronics may not work, or it could be that your gift even represents a duplicate of one already owned by the recipient!
Keeping receipts is easy, and many a recipient has proven grateful for the opportunity to exchange. Finally, always remain aware of your surroundings and put purchases in locked car trunks following store visits.
Thieves frequently hang around parking lots and prey upon rushed shoppers who hurriedly place gifts in a car backseat before quickly returning for more shopping.
Unfortunately, it takes only a minute for a brazen thief to smash a window and seize gifts before making a quick getaway. If you notice anyone watching you load presents into your car, drive off to a new parking place – or different destination altogether!
Parking lot thieves typically target gift toting shoppers returning to vehicles, as opposed to cars that are “new arrivals” to a parking lot.
About The Author: Steven Brachman
Steven Brachman is the lead content provider for UnitedSettlement.com. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Economics, Steven spent several years as a registered representative in the securities industry before moving on to equity research and trading. He is also an experienced test-prep professional and admissions consultant to aspiring graduate business school students. In his spare time, Steven enjoys writing, reading, travel, music and fantasy sports.
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