Whether we like it or not, we’re inching closer and closer to the holidays, a time filled with cocktail parties, family gatherings, winter travel, and piped-in Christmas carols if you’re bold enough to step inside a mall. The holidays are also a great time for financial tips.
From exchanging gifts to sharing meals, there are a number of ways we express our joy with friends, family and work colleagues during this time of year. And for most, while this season is certainly special, it can also be very costly, sometimes impacting pocketbooks long after the fireworks have faded into the new year. In fact, the National Retail Federation, estimates that holiday sales will increase by 3.6% this year, to $655.8 billion.
So to ensure that you minimize your spending sprees and keep debt down while maximizing your celebrations, here’s 12 holiday shopping tips for you to consider right now.
Set expectations with family and friends.
Before you plan your budget, have a conversation with friends and family about expectations for the season. “If&nbps;you’re on a tight budget, suggest gift-buying for the kids only this year,” said Kendal Perez, savings expert with CouponSherpa.com. “You might be surprised how many people in your family will feel relieved by this suggestion.”
Review last year’s budget.
To get a clear picture on what you might spend this holiday season, take a look at your spending patterns from last year. This will give you a realistic summary of your increased expenses during the holiday season so you can draft a more accurate budget this year.
Set a holiday budget.
It’s pretty easy to go on a spending spree when you’re buying gifts for your friends and family, but your wallet will thank you if you make a detailed list of your gift-list and holiday obligations, and set a budget for each expenditure. Make sure you account for hosting, party-related expenses, postage and travel costs. It all adds it.
Start early and hold onto your receipts.
A lot of price increases depend on supply and demand. If retailers see that certain items aren’t flying off the shelves, they might slash prices, but if the product is in high demand, the price could jump. If you start shopping now you might be able to save yourself a few pennies. In addition, most stores have a 60 or 90-day return policy in case you find a better deal somewhere else.
Whenever possible, pay with cash instead of using a credit card. The average credit card debt for households that carry a balance is $16,048, a figure that has risen by 10% over the past three years. By using cash, you don’t have to worry about spending more than you have, keeping debt at bay.
Consider inexpensive and creative gifts.
If your budget is really tight, get creative. Consider giving gifts of time or service, both for your holiday gift recipients and your charitable obligations. Often time people raise money and run in marathons in honor of a loved one.
If you don’t have a service gift in mind, consider gifts that have a personal touch, such as hand-made and homemade gifts like quilts, scarfs, cookies, and gift-baskets.
Always use the right card.
Before you get to the cash register or online checkout page, make sure that you’re using the right card in your wallet. The “Which Card to Use” feature of top rated personal finance app, Prosper Daily, helps you optimize purchases by suggesting which card to use to minimize interest payments or balance card utilization.
Look for shopping deals.
If you’re number one goal is to score deals, start by checking sites that do the bargain hunting for you. Deal sites like DealNews.com, keep an eye on more than 2,000 online retailers and update the site with new deals at least 200 times a day.
Stretch your budget with gift cards.
Check if the retailer will price-match.
More and more retailers are starting to price match, offering consumers the same price as their competitors. Often times these policies are unknown to customers, so don’t hesitate. Just ask if the store manager or cashier they will match another’s retailer or e-tailors offer.
Download Promo Code Extensions.
Honey is a free top-rated browser extension that automatically applies promo codes at checkout, gives cash back and finds better prices on Amazon.
Look for free shipping promotions.
For those of us that do not have Amazon Prime, you might want to consider snagging a subscription. Usually the first month is free, but if it isn’t, do the math. You might find that purchasing a subscription will end up paying for itself if you factor in how many times you plan to order from them over the course of an entire year. In addition, check with other major retailers to see if and when they’ll offer free shipping days.