Top Ten Holiday Shopping Tips
1) Set a budget and stick with it – This is easier said than done, but budgeting is just as important during the holiday season as it is during the year. The holidays are filled with emotions, and because of that, we are more inclined to spend money irresponsibly. By sitting down and setting a realistic number limit on yourself, you will prevent yourself from getting too caught up in the emotions.
2) Make a list and check in twice – It works for Santa, it should work for you. Making specific lists for what everyone is getting is a great way to not only stay on budget, but to make sure you don’t forget anyone.
3) Secret Santa – If you have a large family or large group of friends that are on your shopping lists, create the Secret Santa system. This becomes increasingly more important as people marry and the family expands. The Secret Santa system is a great way to keep costs down and making your shopping experience less crazy.
4) Make your gifts – If your budget is tight this year, don’t be afraid to make personal gifts for your loved ones. This will not only save you money and the headache of holiday shopping, but it will be meaningful to the person you are gifting to. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t appreciate a personalized gift.
5) Never pay full price – I know this sounds like a message from Wal-Mart, but the holiday season is the number one time of year for retailers. It is important for them to show strong holiday sales numbers to their investors and the best way they can do that is by offering deals. Every store or website has deals around this time of year, and you should make sure you take advantage of those.
6) Don’t forget about flex spending money – If you are someone who has set money aside for healthcare flex spending, make sure you submit your receipts and get your money back before year end. This “found” money is a great way to help offset holiday spending.
7) Leverage credit card rewards points – If you are someone who has a rewards credit card, see if you can use your points to buy gift cards or other gifts for your loved ones. If you get cash back, you can use this money to help offset your holiday spending costs.
8) Look online before you leave the house to shop – You will not only save gas money, but your computer gives you the best information on the best deals, and you want to make sure you leave nothing on the table when holiday shopping.
9) Save your receipts and watch for price changes – If you are someone who is shopping today or this weekend, you may think you are getting the best deals; however, in a few weeks, if a store is still trying to make its holiday sales look better, they will offer new incentives, and you want to make sure you get those deals. Worst-case scenario, if the store does not price match, you can return the item you bought, and buy it back on sale.
10) Just buy for the kids – As your extended family grows, and the next generation is born, rather than feel you have to buy for everyone, set a family rule that everyone just buys gifts for each other’s kids. This is a way to keep expenses down, and keep the holidays focused on the little ones.
As an added bonus – My number one holiday shopping tip for 2014 is to start saving for the holidays in January. If you know that you spend a significant amount of money in the last few weeks of the year for the holidays, rather than stress about it, alleviate the stress with a holiday savings account. Set up an auto-draft for $50+ a month that is earmarked for holiday spending. By the time you hit December of 2014, your account will have at least $600 in it and the holidays won’t seem as stressful.