Shop Smart with these 12 Financial Tips For Holiday Shopping
Once again retailers have their red mark-down pens out early and many consumers will begin taking advantage of bargains well in advance of the traditional Black Friday rush.
As you hit the stores this holiday season, whether you’re an experienced shopper with many years of finding the perfect gift at the right price or a novice who is just learning the ropes, it’s always smart to prepare yourself with some timely shopping tips.
Create a holiday budget. Just having an overall idea of what you want to spend floating around in your head isn’t good enough. Without a thoughtfully planned out budget, you’ll likely get caught up in the excitement and overspend in the blink of an eye.
Shop with a list. Santa thinks it’s a useful tool, and so should you. On your list include the names of those for whom you need to a purchase gift for, what you plan to give each of them, and the amount you intend to spend for each gift.
Avoid the high-margin items at the entrance or near the cash registers. They’re there to encourage you to impulse-buy.
Do not carry large amounts of cash. This is the prime season for pickpockets to take advantage of crowded areas and distracted people. Instead, plan to make frequent trips to the ATM to replenish your cash as needed.
Do not carry your checkbook or more credit cards than you will use during the shopping trip. If your wallet is lost or stolen, this will limit the damage.
Purchase or earn discounted retail gift cards. This tip comes from Money Talk News. Some websites sell gift cards at a discount. When you purchase these cards you create your own built-in savings when you shop or gift them. Also, throughout the year you can perform specific tasks such as surveys or visiting a store with their app open in exchange for points that can be cashed in for free gift cards.
Do not shop when you are in a hurry or at the last minute. You’ll end up spending more than you should simply so you can mark an item off your list. Also, plan to visit stores during the first hour of business as salespeople are more likely to be in a good mood. Therefore, more likely to help or offer you a friends-and-family discount.
Do not pile new debt on top of old. Some people are still paying for last year’s holiday expenses as they enter the new buying season. Don’t make your financial situation worse by being one of them. If you are in a tenuous financial situation, it will only be made worse through irresponsible spending.
Being financially responsible this holiday season is a gift to yourself and to those you care about. If you need help creating a holiday budget or paying off an existing debt load, don’t delay reaching out for help. A non-profit credit counseling service is a good place to look for help.
If the debt you have is too much to pay off in one year, consider a personal, debt consolidation loan. These loans offer lower interest rates than your credit card. You can use it to pay off medical bills, private student loan debts, as well as credit cards that carry high-interest rates. Debt consolidation loans will lower your monthly expenses and while helping you pay off your high-interest debt.
Use your smartphone while in the store to compare prices on the spot with competitors. Don’t worry about offending sales associates, ask them to match any lower prices that you find.
Sign up for emails and filter them by adding a folder for them to your inbox. Make sure you specify what kinds of emails you want to receive from them (ie. only sales, not what’s new). Don’t ignore the emails you get from brands you care about, because once in while there will be a really good deal offered only to email subscribers only.
To find the best discounts you will need to be on alert for the timing and location of the best deals. According to consumer research firm America’s Research Group, 65% of customers want discounts of 60% before making a purchase. Many retailers are hoping to wean shoppers off their addiction to discounts. So they aren’t only trying to be more strategic about the timing and duration of promotions, but also about what merchandise and even locations are included. Some have started offering shorter, limited-time-only sales, while others are launching promotions when shoppers least expect them. Many stores are also tailoring specials for its app users, credit-card holders, and rewards members. Be sure to scour social media and sign up for promotion alerts from the retailers you intend to shop. Are you planning on doing some Black Friday shopping? Be sure to check out this Wall Street Journal article for some great tips to get discounts, perks, and even bitcoin.
Give DIY gifts. Not only can a homemade gift convey a more heartfelt sentiment but it may save you some money too. If you aren’t creative, shop at craft fairs, Etsy, or give a food gift from your own kitchen. Homemade jams or mixes are always fun to give and receive. You could also give the gift of your time.
This time of year, shopping is as confusing as it gets. Your social media, mailbox, and email are bombarded with news about sales and holiday promotions. You feel like you’re missing out if you miss a deal and end up paying full price. Stores are packed and roads are already busy with shoppers traveling to the stores get a head start on this year’s shopping. More than ever, smart shopping at the holidays means finding ways to cut through the clutter and know when to buy. We hope that with these tips you will not only be one of the shoppers who get the best deal but one who stays on budget. Wishing You and Yours Happy Holidays, Happy Shopping!