Holiday season is upon us and that means two things, a bigger waistline and a smaller wallet. Whether we’re travelling, partying or buying gifts for family, friends and “more-than-friends”, it’s the most expensive season of the year.
With so much enthusiasm for the holidays, the average person expects to spend upwards of $805 during the holiday season with $460 spent on gifts for family members, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2015 Survey. But just because we’re willing to spend, doesn’t mean we should spend carelessly. Here are a few tips on the do’s and dont’s of holiday shopping, to stretch your dollars even further.
The 5 Holiday Shopping Do’s:
1. Make a Budget
Before you head to the mall, or Amazon, first establish your total budget for the holidays. Then, write a list of all the people you need to buy gifts for. Now, divide the number of gifts into your total budget, and that will tell you how much you have to spend per person. For example, if you have a total budget of $500, and are buying gifts for 10 people, that’s $50 a person. Now you may decide to spend more on certain people over others, that’s fine, just make sure to then reduce your budget for the others appropriately.
2. Be Opportunistic
Give yourself some flexiblity. Start shopping early enough to take advantage of deals, like Black Friday. Do research online, and price shop. Also use online shopping apps like PriceGrabber.com, that let you compare prices across different retailers and automatically send you notices of price drops for your target gifts. Doing all your shopping on one day, in one mall, can really limit your savings opportunities.
3. Do The Double Discount Dip
You know the 15% discount or $30 credit you get for opening up a new credit card at the point of sale? Those could add up to significant savings, especially when their combined with items which are already on sale! While most folks will tell you to avoid them like the plague, the fact is, if you pay off the cards right away, it’s found money. Just make sure you have the discipline to pay off your balance completely in the first month, if you can’t trust yourself take a pass on this strategy.
4. Get Free Shipping
There’s no sense spending the time to find a 20% discount on a $50 item, if you’re going to be charged $17 in shipping. Always make sure to shop on sites that offer free shipping, and if there are minimums, see if it makes sense to bundle a few gifts together to get the discount. Also make sure you shop early enough so you don’t have to spend extra on shipping to get it delivered in 2 business days.
5. Get Rewarded
This is one of the seasons where you’ll be spending the most throughout the year. Get rewarded for it and use a rewards credit card for all your purchases. Whether you want to use a cash back credit card or travel rewards card is up to you, but used properly you should get between 2%-5% in earnings from a premium credit card and 1% with a no fee rewards card. Using your credit card may also give you purchases assurance, protecting you from damage or theft for 90 days after your purchase.
The 5 Holiday Shopping Dont’s
1. Avoid Spending More Than You Have
The holidays are supposed to be festive occasions. Putting yourself into debt to buy someone a gift is no one’s idea of fun. Stick to your budget. The people you’re buying gifts for are presumably friends and family – they don’t want to enrich they’re lives at your expense. If they do, find some new friends.
2. Don’t Be Cheap, Be Frugal
There’s a difference between being cheap and frugal. Being frugal means you’ll do the work to find the cheapest price for an item. Being cheap means you’re willing to sacrifice quality for price and get a poorer quality item, just because it’s cheaper.
3. Don’t Buy It, If You Can Make It
I don’t know about you, but my most memorable gifts have always been the ones that were made for me, like a blanket knitted by my grandmother. While that may be unrealistic for many modern adults, it’s certainly something we can ask of our kids. Instead of giving them money to buy us something, why don’t we ask them to give us a non-monetary gift, like a painting, a video, a hand written card, a photo album of their favourite family pictures, etc…
4. Be Wary Of The Non-Returnable
Getting items on sale can be dicey, since many are final sales. Unless you’re positive it won’t be returned, you may want to hold off on the purchase. A final sale means you cannot return or exchange the gift. Spending all that money, only to find out you bought the wrong sized shirt, or a video game your nephew already has, is frustrating. So either avoid non-returnable items, or make doubly sure it’s the right gift.
5. Don’t Pay For Return Shipping
Let’s face it, not every gift is a success. However, with so many purchases now made online, returning items is more common and trickier than ever. Make sure whoever you buy from online, does not charge you a shipping cost for returning or exchanging items – this is especially true of clothing, where sizing is so uncertain. Finding retailers like Walmart, Zappos, LL Bean & Nordstrom that offer free returns is essential.
The holidays are meant to be fun. Your kindness shouldn’t be a financial burden. Set yourself a budget and do the best you can within your means. Most of all, use the time off during your holidays to create unforgettable moments with friends, family and loved ones! Time well spent is the most precious gift of all.
Featured photo credit: Women with high heels and shopping bags – Three girls sitting on stairs and chatting after buying presents ,oneinchpunch via shutterstock.com