As much as we look forward some aspects of the holidays, for most of us, gift shopping is a chore. We want to find thoughtful presents, also want to avoid going into debt to do so. Our credit counselors have a few tips to help you save on holiday spending.
Make a list and set a budget.
List the people you plan to buy gifts for, the type of gifts you plan to buy, and how much you plan to spend. Include the cost of cash gifts, holiday travel, extra food, wrapping, decorations, cards, and postage. If it relates to the holiday season and it costs money, add it to your budget.
A sale price often isn’t the best price. Some merchants offer a sale price on the item you want for a limited time; others may offer items at a discount everyday.
Look for price-matching policies. Some retailers will match, or even beat, a competitor’s prices.
Go online. Check out web sites that compare prices. If you decide to buy from an online merchant, keep shipping costs and delivery time in mind.
Ask about sale adjustments. If you buy an item at regular price and it goes on sale the next week, can you get a credit or refund for the discounted amount?
Get started shopping early in the season.
If you don’t wait until the last minute, you can shop more leisurely and not buy just to deal with a time crunch. Also shop at non-peak times, so you shop with less stress and pressure and have the time to comparison shop or find deals.
Layaway purchase plans are designed for people who want to buy merchandise without using credit or pay the full price immediately. When you use layaway, you typically make a deposit and pay over time until you have paid for the item in full. In exchange, the retailer holds the merchandise for you.
Give the gift of your time and talents.
Helping someone clean their house, do yard work, or home repairs is a much more personal and thoughtful gesture than most gifts. Handmade jewelry, a painting, or homemade baked goods are also good bets. Spending time with family is a gift in itself. Also consider giving framed family photos.
Keep good records.
Whether you’re ordering by mail, phone, or online, track your purchases and check the numbers at the end of each day to make sure you stay on budget.
If you’re sending gifts to out-of-towners, factor in extra time for shipping. Otherwise you’ll pay a hefty price for express or overnight shipping.