Shopping and Saving This Holiday Season

Holiday Present courtesy of flickr

The holiday season is a perfect time of year to shop! I love searching for great gifts for my family and friends and saving money at the same time. Not everyone considers this a sound money saving strategy and I agree it can be risky unless you have a plan and stick to it. It’s only saving if you end up spending less money than you would have spent otherwise. Following these key steps will keep you in control of your money during the holiday season while you have fun buying gifts!

  • Decide on the total amount of money you can afford to spend on gifts during the holidays for everyone on your list. Commit to spending no more than this amount no matter what you find on sale! The goal is to save money by finding great prices, not to spend everything you have or take on debt that you can’t pay off in one month.
  • Make a list with each person you want to give a gift to and a date by which you need to have the gift. Include gifts for people at work, your child’s teacher or class, your stylist and other service providers in addition to family and friends. If you know what type of gift you want to give them add that to the list too.
  • Reduce the number of people you need to buy gifts for by suggesting that family members or a group of friends draw names and only purchase a gift for one person. Set a dollar amount for each gift and plan a fun get-together to open them!
  • Remember that it’s the thought that counts. Take a look at your list. Who might appreciate a photo, a handwritten note, home baked goods, or the gift of your time? Estimate how much money you will need for these gifts.
  • Next, divide up the rest of the money you can afford to spend across the remaining people on your list. If you know what you want to get for a person then estimate how much it will cost. Otherwise, you can set a maximum dollar amount that you will spend on each person.
  • Start early and go online or visit stores to research the cost of the gifts you want to buy so you can recognize a great deal when you find it.
  • Now the fun begins! Watch for discounts or sales on the items you’re looking for. When you do find a good price on an item you want, buy it – prices often increase close to the holidays and popular items can be harder to find. Some stores will adjust prices if the item goes on sale later for less – just save the receipt.
  • Check the urge to buy something just because it’s cute, funny or a great price unless it’s just the right gift for someone on your list!
  • Stretch your money by looking for “like new” items on Craigslist or local Facebook yard sale sites. Read their guidelines for making purchases safely.
  • Check off each person on your list after you’ve purchased their gift and track how much you’ve spent. It’s fine if one gift costs you less than you thought it would and another costs a bit more.

While I still may feel the pressure to find just the right gifts, knowing how much money I can afford to spend, making a plan, and then sticking to it helps reduce the stress of holiday shopping. Even better, I don’t find myself behind on my bills come January.  So join me in having some fun shopping and saving this holiday season without going into debt!

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