As you’re most certainly aware, we’re rapidly approaching the holiday season. While most of us enjoy this time of year, we’re not always thrilled about what this means for our pockets. After all, saving money is impossible between buying gifts, traveling, and cooking feasts — especially if you’re on a tight budget.
American shoppers are expected to spend $1,463 on holiday purchases this year, according to Deloitte. That’s 5% more than what people spent in 2020.
High-income households are driving the upswing in holiday spending, while lower-income households continue to struggle. Low-income households make up 65% of those planning to skip shopping. In addition, supply chain problems and inflation are pushing up the price of many goods and products this year.
Tips for Holiday Shopping
Regardless of what your spending plan is for this holiday season, it’s still possible to avoid additional debt and save money. As a result, you can still enjoy a festive season without stressing about the repercussions of the new year.
How can you make this possible? Well, here are 12-holiday spending tips that will keep your bank account and savings goals intact.
1. Make a list — and check it twice.
Yes, making a list and checking it twice like Mr. Claus are the keys to saving money throughout the holidays. But, where exactly should you start?
First, list everyone you want to buy a gift for and rank them by gift-giving priority. As you can imagine, your top priority should be the people most important to you, such as family members. At the bottom of the list would be people you would like to buy something for, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
If you find this tedious or even Scrooge-like, just know that this is a must if you want to avoid financial stress. What’s more, you aren’t obligated to buy gifts for everyone you — especially when the present isn’t genuine.
On your revised list, write down what you plan to buy each person. For example, if you write down every gift you want to purchase, you can see if you’re overspending and cut back where necessary. Then, in a few days, revisit the list to see whether you need to make any changes. While this may seem like an extra step, it can help you to avoid impulse buying.
2. Set up a holiday budget.
In a perfect world, you would begin stashing money away for holiday expenses at the beginning of the new year. Why? When October arrives, you should have enough money in a dedicated holiday savings account to cover most of your shopping.
The reality? Roughly 40% of Americans use credit cards to buy holiday gifts. Moreover, according to a YouGov Parent Survey, 25% of parents remain in debt after the previous holiday season.
However, a pre-determined holiday budget can prevent you from going overboard on spending, regardless of whether you use your savings account or credit card to cover your expenses. Therefore, I would go back to your list and set a dollar limit on each individual. Also, don’t forget to factor in costs like shipping, wrapping, and decorations.
3. Have a backup gift list.
“When it comes to gifts, write down a couple of options for each person, so you are not tied to a single item and are tempted to overspend if it is too expensive,” Amir Hemmat, CEO of Welcome Tech told GoBankingRates. “This way, if the first option is too pricey, you have a second gift option already figured out that can work as well. Having multiple backup ideas for gifts will allow you to compare prices and have choices.”
4. Do a price check.
Since you created a holiday budget, you might as well maximize each dollar. And, thanks to the internet and your trusty smartphone, this has never been easier. For example, if you were shopping for a Lego set for your child, conducting a simple web search will allow you to compare prices from multiple retailers.
Additionally, you can track price changes on specific items with free browser extensions like Honey or WikiBuy. And, while you’re at it, download apps like Rakuten so that you can earn cashback on your purchases.
5. Take advantage of discounts and loyalty rewards.
Have you purchased products from various retailers throughout the year? If yes, now is the perfect time to see if you have earned loyalty points, coupons, or other rewards. Look for coupons and discounts to arrive in your inbox and mailbox as well.
Also, you may be eligible for exclusive discounts if you’re;
6. Wait for sales and coupons.
While waiting until the last minute isn’t advised, in some cases, patience can pay off. For example, big-ticket items tend to drop as we get closer to the holidays. To take the guesswork out of this, become more familiar with your favorite stores’ sales cycle or pay close attention to weekly fliers.
You can also get notified of special offers and sales by signing up for your favorite store’s newsletter. Even if you hate ads, the newsletter will alert you to upcoming special sales, “secret” sales, and preferred customer sales. Or, you can use apps like Coupon Sherpa to find the latest deals.
7. Don’t get duped by Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
“The goal of a typical Black Friday retailer is to attract customers by offering a few key products at a so-called discount,” Maurie Backman writes for The Motley Fool. “Then, once those ‘deals’ run out, the retailers have still got you in their hooks because you’re already in their stores or on their sites, at which point you’re more likely to buy something else — even if it’s not on sale.”
What’s more, Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are already in rotation.
“Early Black Friday sales have already kicked off, like Walmart dropping its Black Friday Deals For Days on Nov. 3 after leaking the deals in October,” Katie Teague notes for CNET. “Target’s holiday sales began on Oct. 31, and the giant retail company will continue adding new deals every Sunday. Best Buy, Amazon, Macy’s, and other retailers all have early sales in the wings, too. In addition, Cyber Monday prices typically pop up as a last-chance deal for online shoppers.”
Teague’s advice? Do your shopping now.
“One reason you shouldn’t wait is that many of the prices don’t change over the Thanksgiving weekend (if the products stay in stock — see below),” she says. “So stores might change the terminology in their advertising, but — in most cases — you’re still getting that Amazon Fire Stick for $25 (or whatever the price may be) whether you buy it Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.”
8. Ditch the credit card.
It’s not that difficult to exceed your holiday shopping budget if you use a credit card to pay for gifts. Unlike shopping with cash, where you must have the cash on hand to make a purchase, you can pay for these items later. You trick yourself into thinking that putting $20 or $50 on your credit card is no big deal.
But, these small purchases quickly add up. And, if you aren’t keeping track of your purchases, expect an unpleasant surprise when receiving your next bill.
To avoid this, use cash and buy gifts offline. Using something like the envelope method ensures that you won’t break your budget. If you do make online purchases, consider using your debit card. First, however, keep tabs on what you’re spending.
And, you should also remove stored credit cards online to resist any shopping temptations.
9. Think outside the box.
Who says that gifts have to be brand new items from Amazon, Walmart, or a local business? Instead, get creative if you want to keep your spending in check this holiday season. Some suggestions include;
- Buy last year’s electronics. Like your parents or young children, some people don’t need electronics with all the bells and whistles. As such, save yourself some money by purchasing a slightly older version.
- Go thrifting. This is all about knowing where your audience is. For example, several years ago, my brother was interested in golf. Rather than buy him an expensive new set of clubs, I found a starter set at a thrift shop for $50.
- Pollyanna and gift exchanges. Instead of buying everyone in your household, friend circles, or business, recommend something like pollyanna or a gift exchange. My siblings and their significant others have been doing this for years.
- DIY. Create memorable gifts while saving money by making them yourself. While not everyone on your list will appreciate these gifts, they could be suitable options for teachers or grandparents.
- Split it. In cases where multiple purchases are available, such as “buy one, get one half off” or a two-for-one deal, go in with someone and split the savings.
10. Protect your identity.
With the increase in shopping, it’s not surprising that this is the most wonderful time of the year for cybercriminals. And, if you become a victim of this, it can be a costly and stressful experience. As such, take the following steps to protect yourself;
- Avoid making online purchases over public Wi-Fi. For example, don’t make sensitive web transactions at the library or coffee shop as open networks aren’t as secure as password-protected ones.
- Whenever you come across an offer that seems too good to be true, be cautious. It’s common for cybercriminals to send phishing emails imitating legitimate businesses. Consequently, this can deceive you into clicking on a link that will either steal your personal information or download malicious malware.
11. Be willing to make sacrifices.
Ideally, you should price out all of your shopping prior to making the final purchases. That may sound like a lot of work upfront. But, knowing this figure will let you know if you’ll be over your budget or not. If so, you may want to eliminate one of the categories, said Kari Lorz, certified financial education instructor and founder at Money for the Mamas.
“Say this year, you want to prioritize your family’s trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house,” adds Lorz. “That may mean that you don’t buy any new decorations this year, you skip going to holiday parties, or you attend only free holiday events with no gift or food required. It’s a trade-off, a balancing act.”
12. Wait until after the holidays.
If you can wait, you can take advantage of after-holiday sales. During this time, you can find steals on decorations, gift bags, and even non-perishable items.
Just make sure to keep an inventory of what you bought so that you aren’t making duplicate purchases next year.
Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels