In my bankruptcy practice it seems that Holiday shopping is always a major contributor to folks’ financial difficulties. And it seems like gift shopping for the Holidays is no longer limited to just the time after Thanksgiving. Major adverting campaigns are now beginning as early as Halloween. If you’re going to financially survive the Yuletide Season it now takes even more planning—and resolve. Here are a few more tips to keeping you on the right financial track this Christmas.
My number one tip, as always, is don’t take your credit cards with you to the store. Make a Christmas resolution to yourself to only spend money that you actually have. If you have to use credit, the best gift to yourself this Season could be paying off your spending by Valentine’s Day.
Second, get easy gifts out of the way early. Set aside money for cash gifts — to the paper boy, the mailman, the babysitter, the hairdresser, the out-of-town nephews — before Thanksgiving. No more last-minute frantic searching for cash for tips to the trash collectors.
Third, make up a list. Decide which gifts you want and match them with sale ads. Then write down the stores you’ll visit for those particular gifts—this helps focus your shopping excursion and makes the chore more pleasant–you don’t get caught up in holiday hysteria. You’ll spend less money than if you rush from store to store snapping up “bargains” willy-nilly. It also avoids “decision fatigue”—when your judgment becomes worse when you have too many choices to make at once. And beware of the urge to keep buying—when your shopping list is complete, acknowledge yourself for your hard work and head for home!
Fourth, don’t procrastinate. One of the surest ways to overspend is to wait until the last minute and buy all your gifts in a rush. Mark your calendar now about when you’ll be doing your shopping.
Next, make the internet your friend—comparison shop, which can be easily done online, whether for features or prices—and can be done in the peace and quiet of your home. Seek out cash-back shopping sites, which allow you to save money on nearly everything you buy online, regardless of whether a particular store is holding a sale. These sites literally pay you to shop. And when you shop online, always look for free shipping both ways, in case a gift is exchanged.
Sixth, try shopping with your spouse or a friend so you can take advantage of multiple purchase discounts—buy two and get the second for half-price, or two-for-one specials—and then split the savings.
Seventh, look outside the box for alternatives: For example, rather than buying a gift for every sibling, in-law, niece and nephew, instead try having a family gift exchange in which you each choose one name and then put more thought than money into selecting a single, special gift.
Or buy a single gift for multiple folks—say for your brother’s entire family an “entertainment” basket filled with DVDs, microwave popcorn and gift certificates to the movies. Or for your sister, the new mother, how about an evening out at a restaurant, plus your services as a free babysitter? The best gifts don’t cost money.
And what could be more thoughtful—and inexpensive—than a homemade gift? Simple crafts can make great presents, and can be a lot of fun to do. A local bead store can give you many suggestions for earrings, bracelets, and pendants. You can even get your little ones to help out, which can add to the specialness.
Now that you have some solid steps in place to de-stress during the Holidays and spend less, pat yourself on the back and really enjoy family and friends at this special time of the year! And as you head into 2018, try applying these shopping tips for the whole year. By next Christmas wise shopping habits could be second nature.