Before I start, I would like to make a note to say that I am not the Grinch.
Now I will start.
Holiday shopping sucks. Lines, absurd gifts, ridiculous prices, and millions spent on marketing in order for consumers to spend billions…all things I hate.
Things I love about the holidays-food, family time, ice skating, pictures with Santa and my English Bully Bella (tons of free options), and giving back to the community.
Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to get sucked into the mix of shopping till we’re dropping. I am guilty of this as well.
Luckily, if done right, there are several ways to make the holiday season a little lighter on your wallet.
1. Evaluate and Budget. Make a list of all of the people you plan on buying gifts for, as well as all of the other expenses that you are going to have such as travel, parties, food, etc.
Next to each person/item/event, write down the amount that you want to spend on each. How do you come up with the dollar amount? Think about how much you have spent in past years on that item/person and determine if that was too much or too little.
After doing this, start writing gift ideas. This will keep you from overspending and more importantly, save you time.
2. Spend what you have. Warning: This does not mean spend ALL you have. Holidays are a great time for many to rack up credit card points. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the people that overspend. If you love to shop and you have tendencies to make regular impulse purchases, it might be a good idea to stick to cash while avoiding credit cards.
Just like any other time, the more flexible you can be with your time and days, the less money you will spend. Consider flying out of an alternative airport. For me, that could be DFW where prices are much cheaper. For you, it may be Newark instead of JFK.
4. Consider alternative gifts. Instead of buying expensive gifts that will either be re-gifted, never used, trashed, etc., consider more practical gifts. If you know someone starting a new job, a workbag or a personalized notepad might be a gift that she could use.
Another alternative gift idea could be taking your family or friends to lunch or dinner after volunteering somewhere together. This would give everyone the opportunity to help others in need while bringing your whole entourage together.
Other group gifts can be attending a sporting event together or even going ice skating together. These are experiences that will always be remembered.
5. Price check. Have a gift idea? Don’t buy the first one you see. Check prices at multiple retailers before making the purchase. You can check the price of almost everything online.
Speaking of online, consider buying the majority of your gifts online. Not only will you save a lot of money, you will save A LOT of time. You will also avoid the marketing schemes (number 6).
6. Avoid the marketing and shop early. Too much to say about this topic, but I will make it brief. It is a common misconception to think that the best deals are on Black Friday or other big name sales days. Though there may be some good deals on electronics, it isn’t always the best day to shop for all of your gifts. No matter how good the deal, the lines, crazies, and “out of stock” signs can ruin it.
Another marketing tactic to avoid is the “gift” sections of retail stores. These are usually the sections that exist for people that have no idea what to buy. The gift sections make it convenient to pick something funny/interesting without having to do any thinking. The problem is that these gifts are typically not practical and can get expensive. Not to mention these gifts are usually low quality products. Gift baskets fall into this category as well.
The best advice for avoiding marketing is to avoid the mall as much as possible. It is obviously nice to go to the mall at times during the holidays to see the decorations and to get in the spirit, but avoiding it as much as possible will allow you to avoid impulse purchases.
Impulse purchases are the key to a successful holiday season for retailers.
I know I said six, but one last thing. Stay away from the flashy gift bags and wrapping paper. You can get some of the best of these items at stores like Dollar Tree. This will give you a chance to either save money (recommended) or spend more on the actual gift.
Remember to take The Money Quiz!