11 Brilliant Ways to Holiday Shop Without Breaking the Bank
The holiday season is all about love, family, and spending all your hard-earned money. Well, ideally it’s less of the latter. Although it’s safe to say you won’t escape the most wonderful time of the year without slightly lightening your wallet, there are loopholes to keep even the most zealous shopper from maxing out their credit cards. Below are a few consumer-savvy tricks to make like Santa Claus without dipping into your savings.
1. DO THE BULK OF YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING RIGHT AFTER THE HOLIDAYS ARE OVER.
Sure, it won’t help you this year, but if you hit up stores a day or two after a holiday—whether it’s Mother’s Day, Halloween, or Hanukkah—you’ll find these seasonal items relegated to the back of the store with a major clearance sale. Stock up on greeting cards, wrapping paper, and decorations, and this time next year, you’ll have everything you need already.
2. LOOK BACK AT YOUR SPENDING LAST YEAR.
Before you start writing out your shopping lists, consider how much you spent the previous holiday season and think about if you had any regrets. By reviewing credit card statements and receipts, you might start to detect patterns—a lot of last-minute expenditures, for instance— that you can be sure to avoid this time around.
3. CREATE A STRICT SHOPPING LIST.
Before you even think about window-shopping, make a list of the people you plan to buy gifts for along with a rough estimate of how much you’d like to spend on each person. This will be the beginning of a holiday spending budget and should help you stay on track. So, if you end up going overboard on a sibling’s present, you might need to minimize how much you spend on a few friends to make up the difference.
4. COMPARISON SHOP IN THE STORE.
Resolve to not buy something the minute you discover it. Instead, snap a photo of the price tag and do some research. You can even do some digging from your smart phone while you’re still in the store. See if you can find the item cheaper either online or at another establishment. If you don’t feel like making the trek, show a manager what you found and see if they’ll meet the same price.
5. COMPARISON SHOP ONLINE.
Just as you do in a brick-and-mortar store, spend time researching potential gifts, particularly big-ticket items, online. It’s a prime place to learn more about product features—the most expensive brand-name camera isn’t always the best!—and discover if particular models, while priced higher, offer benefits like rebates or free shipping that will keep overall costs down.
6. SUGGEST ALTERNATIVE GIFT EXCHANGES.
Instead of giving every cousin on your list an individual gift, consider cutting back on quantity in favor of quality. Suggest a “secret Santa” exchange in which everyone pulls a single name from a hat. If more kids are added to the family each year, perhaps it’s a good time to reserve gifts for children, not adults. However you offer to limit the laundry list of recipients, likely other family members will be relieved as well.
7. GET GIFT CARDS AT A DISCOUNT.
There are a host of gift card exchange sites that allow recipients of unwanted gift cards to sell them to people who actually want them in exchange for cash. They are usually all available for at least a marginal discount if not a major one. In fact, sometimes you can get a gift card to a department store for half of the card’s value, which will make you look especially generous to whomever you give it to.
8. TIME YOUR SHOPPING OVER THE COURSE OF THE YEAR.
There’s a prime season and an off-season for everything, consumer goods being no exception. Winter coats, for instance, are most expensive in the fall months, but come February, they’re usually marked down significantly. Furniture and linens are cheapest in January, April is the best time to buy digital cameras or laptops, and August is prime time to buy, of all things, paint.
9. BE REALISTIC ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD.
The last thing anyone wants is for you to go into debt buying them gifts. It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit and strive to be overly generous, but set some boundaries so that you don’t overspend, especially when paying with plastic. It’s no fun to start the new year in the red.
10. IF YOU PLAN TO SHOP ON BLACK FRIDAY, HAVE A GAME PLAN.
Although it’s a day on which many people prefer to avoid the malls altogether, there’s no denying that some of the best deals of the season happen during that 24-hour period. If you plan to brave the crowds, go in with a firm strategy mapped out, literally—have a list of where you want to be when, and precisely what you plan to get at each stop. This isn’t the time for browsing!
11. REMEMBER WHAT THE HOLIDAYS ARE REALLY ABOUT.
In the end, the holiday season is about more than beautifully wrapped presents. Know that your loved ones will understand if you can’t afford to give lavish gifts, or any gifts at all. Consider writing thoughtful cards to those on your list or crafting homemade gifts; baked goods straight from your kitchen are never a bad idea, either.