Christmas shopping

Christmas – it’s the lovely time of the year again; the time for giving and sharing of gifts with family and friends. As much as we want to celebrate and be jolly during this festive season, we want to make sure that we are careful about spending so that we don’t spoil the festive mood.

From past years’ experiences, my challenge with Christmas shopping has always been overspending. Retailers are really good at running promotions and coming up with the latest gift ideas to entice shoppers to spend more money than I really want to. Once at the shopping mall, I’m just constantly bombarded with opportunities to buy, buy, buy… Without realizing it, multiple small purchases accumulated into big amounts which gave me a big shock when the credit card bill came later.

This year, I’m going to be prepared for my Christmas shopping by have a shopping list and budget before I head down to the mall.

Here are some tips to prevent overspending and bursting your pockets this Christmas:

  1. Have a list – List the people who you are going to buy a Christmas gift for. This is a good place to start as the exercise will help you see the ‘magnitude’ of the shopping you need to do. Here are some of the people who you will probably include in this list:
    • Family.
    • Close friends.
    • Colleagues.
    • Gift exchanges for Christmas parties.
  2. Think of a gift – For each person in the list, think of a suitable gift that you will like to buy for him/her. If you are not very sure at this point, have a few potential items listed so that you at least have something in mind when you are in the mall.
  3. Start a budget – For each gift, estimate how much you would spend on that gift. Total the prices for all the gifts you have listed and that’ll be your budget. If you have a few possible items listed for one person, use the price of the most expensive item to calculating the budget. You want to make sure you are prepared for the worst case scenario. Take a look at the total. Is this budget affordable? If not, you may have to review step 2 and 3 until you have a final budget that you are comfortable with.
  4. Do online research – A good way to check if your budget is realistic is to do some online research before you actually head down to the mall. Not only is this a good way to gather gift ideas and market rates, it also saves you time and energy you would waste going to the crowded mall simply for research purpose. Here are some great sites to start you off:
    • Amazon.com – the grandfather of online shopping for books, electronics, CD/DVD for music and movies. Now, it even includes apparel, jewelry, tools and sports gears.
    • Ikea.com – I get great ideas for cheap home furnishing gifts here.
    • Overstock.com – Covers a wide range of gift ideas, and offers gifts by budget ranges from under $25 to above $100 (only US shipping destinations).
    • Bizrate.com – Great site for price research as it aggregates catalogues from many online retailers into one site. When making actual online purchase, you will be redirected to the online retailer’s site.
  5. Do your shopping – Here’s where the real action starts. Get down to the shopping mall or go to online stores to do your shopping. Retailers like to run promotions during the Christmas season to encourage consumer spending. At the malls, be prepared to be tempted by irresistible offers and promotions. Having the shopping list and budget in hand will certainly help you stay focused. You are less likely to get distracted into opportunistic shopping which will result in you bursting your pockets.
  6. Review actual spending against budget – For each actual purchase that you make, update your budget with the actual money spent. If you have burst your budget on some items, then you’ll have to lower the spending on other items to make up for the differences. Likewise, if you make some savings on certain items, then you’ll have more slack to play with on other items. Keep doing this for the entire shopping list and you will be able to constantly track your actual spending against your budget. This is vitally important to help you keep within your shopping budget.

I have included a sample budget in Excel to get you started on budgeting for your Christmas shopping. You can download Christmas shopping budget template here.

It does take some upfront efforts to plan your Christmas shopping. However, the effort will allow you to shop with focus and saves you time and money later on. With the above tips, I hope you will enjoy a guilt and worry free holiday. There will not be any nasty surprises when the January bill comes in as you know very well how much you have spent. Have a joyous and enjoyable shopping experience!

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