This article was last updated on December 19
It’s hard to believe than another holiday season is upon us. With all good intentions, most of us will make a promise to ourselves that we will shop early and shop smart. But unfortunately, in most cases, life’s routines and little emergencies usually force us to shop at the last minute. This can make your gift buying spree feel rushed and confused. Never fear, though, as there are still ways to shop smart this year – whether you start your shopping in June or the day before Christmas.
5 Tips for Smart Holiday Shopping
There are several tips that you can follow in order to make your holiday shopping more pleasant as well as less costly. Some suggestions may sound old fashioned or simplistic, but in most cases, they really do work!
Set a Budget
First, before you even purchase the first stocking stuffer, set your holiday spending budget. With the rough economic conditions of the last few years, people have to pay much closer attention to what they spend on regular monthly bills. Having additional expenses such as holiday gifts can cause even more stress when trying to make ends meet. Therefore, set your holiday spending limit and stick closely to your amount.
Use Cash or a Pre-Paid Debit Card
Carrying cash and leaving your credit cards at home will also help you to curb spending, stay focused, and shop much smarter. By bringing only the amount you have budgeted, you won’t be tempted – or even be able – to buy more expensive items on impulse. It will also allow you to avoid high credit card interest charges on the balance you will have well after the holidays are over. Imagine having all of your purchases paid for before January!
If you want to avoid keeping or carrying a lot of cash then consider getting an American Express pre-paid debit/gift card which you can pre-load with your budgeted amount for gifts. You can use this card anywhere (online and offline) American Express is taken without having to carry cash around. When you are card runs out, your budget for gifts is done. I have found this method particularly successful if there are multiple people in the household doing gift shopping. Each gets a pre-paid card and so I always know my overall gift budget will be maintained.
Make a List…And Check It Twice!
Making a regular grocery list or back-to-school shopping list has always made good financial sense. So why not make a holiday shopping list as well? It could help if you write down all of the people’s names you plan to buy for. Then, next to each name, write down what gift (or type of gift) you plan to purchase for them, as well as an estimated amount.
Once your list is complete, add up the total amount of estimated gift costs. If it’s way out of your budget, you may need to go back through the list and trim a little.
Not only will making a list help you stick to your budget, it will also help you to focus while you shop. With your list, you will be more focused on what you plan to purchase and you are less likely to be tempted by other items or “great deals” promoted by the stores you visit. Otherwise, impulse purchases can end up costing you a great deal more than you had hoped to spend.
Shopping online will save you hours of time and frustration. During the holiday season, it could take 20 to 30 minutes just to find a parking spot at the mall, not to mention the time spent waiting in long checkout lines.
It is also safer to shop online. With hard economic times, there may be a higher chance of theft when in the store or when walking to and from your car.
In addition, when shopping online, you often have access to product reviews and comments from others who have purchased specific products in the past. It can be helpful to read both the positive and the negative information about products you intend to purchase.
And, as many online retailers offer free or discounted shipping, you can also have the gifts you purchase simply show up at your doorstep versus having to carry armloads of boxes and bags through a crowded mall. In fact with Amazon Prime, you can get free shipping for all your gift buying in the year ahead are an ultra-low price.
Create Your Own Gifts
When times are tough – or if you simply want to give a gift from the heart – you can create the gifts you give. Homemade candies or cookies are always a big hit – and in most cases, they can be used immediately by the recipients. People will appreciate the time and effort you took to make their holiday gift from the heart versus from the mall.
Also personalized gifts like decoration plates with family picture, personalized team memorabilia are a great way to show you really care as opposed to a generic store bought gift.