'Tis the Season to Shop for the Holidays
It is that time of year again for holiday shopping! Thanksgiving is over and you just finished putting up the Christmas Tree and decorations, so now you need to start your holiday shopping list. However, you’re also trying to figure out how to survive holiday shopping without driving yourself crazy and breaking the bank. No worries, I will share key survival tips to make your holiday shopping a success without the stress and draining your wallet!
Set a Budget
First, it is important to set a budget for yourself. You should know your spending limit before you start to shop. Once you start to shop keep track of your budget, so you do not go off the beaten path. If possible, you should try to only pay cash versus using credit cards. The advantage of using cash is that it is fee-free and you pay up front. The disadvantage of using credit cards is that you will have to pay back the borrowed funds plus interest if you do not pay the balance at the end of the month. Unfortunately, too many people rack up serious debt in order to purchase gifts for the holidays. It is understandable not everyone has cash on hand to pay for everything, so if you do use credit cards stick with the ones that have no or low interest. You want to make sure when the holiday season is over and the New Year is here, you don’t start the year off in serious debt!
Make a List
Second, make a list to include everyone you are considering purchasing a gift for. Organizing your list into groups such as family members, friends, and co-workers makes it easy to determine the type of gift and cost. You want to make sure that co-workers are not receiving the same price gift as a close family member. Co-workers should receive low cost gifts such as a coffee mug, personalized stationery and pen, or a Starbucks gift card. Looking into memorable keepsakes for family members can actually save you some dollars, such as handmade gift, monogram towels, personalized Christmas ornaments, or a picture frame with a family photo. Also, consider getting one gift per household that the entire family can benefit from, such as a gift basket. It is the thought that counts, so be creative with gift ideas!
When and Where to Shop
Third, you need to determine where and when to shop. Savvy shoppers do not impulse buy, but strategically shop around to find the best deals. Making sure you start early can save you tons of cash and the hassle of wrestling with the crowds. The best deals occur prior to the December rush. Two of the best days of the year to shop are Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There is an entire website dedicated to Black Friday deals, which can be found at The Black Friday. Black Friday deals are offered in-stores or online, and the discounts range from 25% to 75% off retail prices.
Cyber Monday deals are only offered at online stores and offer similar Black Friday discounts, more information can be found at Cyber Monday. Don’t be afraid to shop online, because some of the best deals are found on websites such as Amazon, Ebay, or Overstock. Most online sites offer extra discounts, free shipping, guaranteed delivery before Christmas, and free bonus items. The majority of online stores will ship your purchases to a location other than your billing address, which means you can ship the gift directly to the person. Also, you can sign-up for websites such as Ebates to shop at over 1,500 of the world’s top stores and earn cash back with every purchase. Last minute shoppers usually pay more money than shoppers who start out earlier in the year. Getting a head start on holiday shopping allows for shoppers to comparison-shop, which helps anyone's money go a long way when on a budget!
If you end up heading to the mall to shop, then I would suggest you plan out your day. First, you should go to the store early in the morning, because the crowds are smaller in the morning compared to late afternoon or evening. Also, plan out the stores you want to go to, which will help you in mapping out your stops and not aimlessly wandering through the mall. Make sure you get a good parking spot to avoid having to make a long trip back to the car while carrying heavy bags. If you park close enough, then you may want to make a trip to your car to drop off bags in between shopping. I suggest not making more than two trips to the car, because you want to make sure you are safe and no one attempts to follow you. If you do head to the car, then make sure to put the items in the trunk of the car and not in the back seat. By doing so, you will avoid anyone noticing all the goodies in your car and attempting to break into your car.
Finally, no matter where you shop, make sure you understand the return/exchange policy. It helps if you know if there are any additional fees tacked on if you need to return an online purchase (e.g., shipping fee) or a restocking fee for returning an item in the store. What is the timeframe a consumer has to return/exchange an item? You don’t want to buy a gift for someone and come to find out the deadline for the return/exchange has expired. Also, don’t forget to ask for a gift receipt, because most stores will not accept a return/exchange without one!
Keep in mind, it is important to have a well-thought plan before you start your holiday shopping. By having a plan, it saves you time, money, and energy! If you are unable to buy everything on your list, then there is always next year!