The average American intends to spend $421 on gifts this holiday season. That alone is a substantial amount, but that sum doesn’t even include food, travel and other common holiday expenses. If you throw in the price of a few plane tickets for good measure, you could find yourself deep in the hole by the time the holidays are over.
The holiday spirit often overpowers rational thinking, leading some to spend thousands before they know what hit them. However, you, the smart holiday shopper, will have a leg up on them. Consider these seven ways to keep your wallet padded this holiday season without becoming Scrooge!
1 – Create a Budget
Review how much you’ve spent during previous holiday seasons and remind yourself how long it took to pay off those holiday expenses. Decide whether that level of spending is financially acceptable this year. If not, make your budget a little tighter this time around.
Factor in items such as:
- Wrapping paper
If you typically purchase a Christmas tree, add that to the list too. The idea is to cover not just gifts, but everything related to the holiday you celebrate.
Having a budget on hand will help immensely when deciding whether or not to pay $100 for that cute little robotic dog. After all, if your gift budget is $300 and you have 14 other people on your list, the recipient will get five times her fair share of your gift money.
2 – Prioritize
If you typically purchase gifts for 50 people and want to radically cut your budget to $250 this year, consider dropping Kim from accounting, the mailman, your neighbor’s uncle and maybe even that distant cousin who you haven’t talked to all year. After all, your significant other, children, parents and others you cherish most should be your primary focus.
3 – Make a Shopping List
Retailers lay out their merchandise to maximize profits. Thus, if you walk in without a plan, you could easily be suckered into buying items you had no idea even existed.
Instead, know what you want to buy and stick with it. Get in, find your pre-planned merchandise, pay for it and leave.
4 – Be the Early Bird
To get the holiday worm – if you will – your best bet is to shop as early as possible. Not only will doing so give you the best chance at actually finding the best deal, but prices generally rise as holidays draw near.
Ideally, find bargains on your entire gift list on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
5 – Cash is King
Shoppers spend 12-18% more when using credit cards as opposed to cash. That’s because people feel the “pain” of spending money more with the latter. As such, carry only enough cash with you to purchase your target items and leave your cards at home.
For online purchases, consider using a debit card. It’s still plastic, but it limits you from spending more than you have.
6 – Don’t Sign up for Store Credit Cards
“Would you like to sign up for the XYZ card today? You’ll save 10 percent on your purchase.”
Chances are you’ll hear something like this at some point during your holiday shopping. While the offer may be tempting, it’s likely a bad deal. Such cards encourage you to spend more in the long run and usually have high interest rates.
Again, stick with cash.
7 – Remember what the Holidays are Really About
The holidays are about sharing positive moments with loved ones, not swimming in wrapping paper and pretending you like every trinket that will later wind up in storage. Consider toning the spending down a bit, and perhaps doing it as a family.
For instance, a family of four might urge the kids to skip buying socks for dad and agree that each child kid gets one big gift and two or three smaller ones versus a new bicycle, video game console and 12 new games. They could focus more on spending meaningful time together. An affordable family outing might be an attractive alternative to presents.
By creating a budget, prioritizing and sticking to a shopping list, you’ll clear the path for a financially responsible holiday season. Remember to shop as early as possible and pay with cash. Be sure to let the cashier know you’re not interested in the store credit card!
Finally, remember that the holidays aren’t all about gifts. They’re about spending time with loved ones. Keep that in mind and conserving your holiday spending should be a piece of holiday fruitcake.