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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. A time to focus on family, give thanks for all the blessings and share good time with our loved ones. But the holiday season comes at a price too. According to a National Retail Federation survey, consumers plan to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items, and additional “non-gift” purchases for themselves and their families this year.
Unless you’re hyper-organized, you probably still have a little – or a lot – of holiday shopping to do. The cost of holiday gifts, decorations, and food can quickly add up and put a big dent in every family’s budget. Fortunately, we’ve still got time to make a plan that can help keep both spending and stress under control. From money-saving tricks to out-of-the-box ideas, these smart holiday shopping tips can help keep you on track, making this year’s holiday shopping stress-free, safe, and fun.
1. Shop with a list
This is essential. Have a list of the people you need to get gifts for and the people you’d like to give gifts to. Just like Santa where he’s making a list and checking it twice, you should make a list and check it twice. Don’t presume that because you’ve always given each other gifts that that’s how it’s going to be going forward, especially not this year. With a final headcount, you can know for sure that you won’t leave anyone out and be scrambling for last-minute gifts. Pro tip: Add yourself to the gift list budget, too!
2. Set a budget
Before you hit the stores — online or brick and mortar — take a moment to figure out how much you can afford to spend. Be sure to include ALL the holiday-related expenses in your budget, such as decorations, food, and other holiday essentials. You should not be going into debt to spread some holiday cheer. Don’t feel bad about crossing some people off your list if your budget is tight. Also, base your budget on how much money you have to work with, not on what other people are giving you. Pro tip: Make a list of the items you intend to buy, stores they can be found at, estimated prices, discount codes, and more to stay on budget.
3. Shop alone
While it doesn’t sound as fun as going with a friend, if you can shop alone, do it. Not only it will help limit the number of people at the store at one time, making it easier to socially distance, it will also save you time and potentially prevent you from being influenced to make big spur-of-the-moment purchases.
4. Set a timeframe
Your time is too valuable to waste. Set a specific timeframe that you will complete your shopping in. Once the time is over and you’ve bought all you need (and nothing you don’t need!), stop shopping and turn your attention to something else for the day.
5. Don’t buy just because it’s on sale
Spending money is not saving, and sales are not necessarily your friend. With that said, you should make this your shopping mantra: If you don’t need it or if it’s not on your list – don’t buy it! Regardless of price. Even if it’s 75% off. Follow this rule of thumb and you won’t find yourself spending more than you have.
6. Compare prices
Don’t assume the first product you spot on the first retailer you visit will have the best price. Especially if you’ve got a big item on your list – a laptop, game system, tablet computer, flat-screen TV, camera, etc.– spend a little time checking out the various options & brands available. Read the reviews, figure out some base prices, & make a list of at least your top 3 picks. Narrow down the field so you know what to look for.
7. Buy in bulk
Gift giving to a large group doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Consider purchasing multiple gifts from the same retailer to take advantage of that 10% or 15% if your order is over $50. Also, If you find a gift that you know several people on your list would enjoy, don’t be afraid to buy the same gift twice. You may find a store that is offering any kind of “Buy 1, get the second 1 at a discount”. You can also buy these products in bulk, or buy gift sets, and split them among different people.
8. Buy group presents
Pooling money to buy a bigger gift than individuals would otherwise purchase is not a new concept. This tactic will not only be helpful to save money but it will help you and your friends/family save precious time, effort, and space, too.
9. Never checkout without a promo code
Be sure you’re not leaving any discounts on the table. If you know which stores you plan to shop at during the holidays, sign up for coupon alerts ahead of time. Retailers often list coupon codes on their websites that can be used to score instant discounts at checkout. Before you click “check out” online, a quick internet search for the name of the retailer, and the term “discount code” might lead you to some handy codes.
10. Consider alternatives
Give thoughtful, not necessarily expensive, gifts. There are plenty of presents we can give that cost absolutely nothing or close to it, and could help bring down our expenses. For example, make something yourself, frame photos for family members, gift an experience, give your time, re-gift something, enroll the recipient in a class, gift a subscription service.
11. Plan ahead for next year
I know, I know! We don’t really want to think about gift-giving in January. Just setting aside 20 to 30 minutes to reflect on your holiday spending, and deciding on your budget for the upcoming year will make your life much easier during the next Holiday Season.