It’s here! Finally. For better or worse, depending on your perspective, the holiday shopping season is upon us. It’s time to check your list twice and then hit the malls.
But with the economy still fragile and money still a little tight, many shoppers need to keep an eye on their budget while indulging their yuletide shopping spirits. Here are a few tips for smarter holiday shopping this season.
- Check your list.
One of the biggest reasons people go overboard during the holiday season is that they fail to plan their shopping. Before you go shopping make a complete list of whom you need to buy for and how much you plan to spend. Once you’ve made your list stick to it and don’t go over your budget. If you don’t have any idea what your Great Uncle Ted really wants then at least determine your spending limit for your sweet old Uncle. When in doubt on what to buy you can always depend on a gift card.
- Compare online.
Once you’ve decided that a new coffee maker is the perfect gift for your mom and you’ve determined your budget, log onto the internet and do your own research. Look not only for the features of the coffee maker and the price but look for unbiased consumer reviews. Even some of the most well-known names in the coffee maker industry can have a bad model every now and then. And if you want to save money, there are several off-brand manufacturers that provide a quality coffee maker at a fair price. Online retailers often provide consumer reviews along with the price and description of the item.
Use the web to check for specials and online coupons you can print and take with you for additional discounts. You may have to sign up to receive email alerts from certain retailers, but the potential savings may be worth the hassle of those emails (which you can always cancel later).
- Reward points.
Check with your credit cards for available reward bonuses. Some credit cards allow you to purchase gift cards at a discount. You can use those discount gift cards for your shopping list – or just give them directly as holiday gifts.
- Minimize your trips.
Shopping trips may be fun for some, but they can get expensive. If you do plan to shop at stores and malls, try to minimize your trip so you’ll have to spend less money on gas – and less time.
- Free wrapping.
Many often overlook the time and costs involved with wrapping holiday gifts. Unless you absolutely love wrapping presents, save yourself a little money and a lot of time by using the free gift-wrapping services offered by many department stores.
- New account discounts.
In order to encourage more sign-ups for department store credit cards, some retailers offer 10% to 15% discounts on the first purchases made with new cards. If you know you’ll be making a major purchase at a retailer that offers such credit card offers, consider taking advantage of this major savings. Then pay it off (and maybe even close the account) as soon as you can.
- Gift Receipts.
Stores will typically offer a gift receipt in addition to your standard purchase receipt. A gift receipt will note the description of the item on the sales slip but will not have a price listed on the receipt. You can include the gift receipt in the box as you wrap the present just in case the lucky recipient decides they have enough green Christmas sweaters.
By planning ahead and spreading out your shopping over several days or weeks you’ll find you’ll enjoy the shopping season just a little bit more this year. Create a budget, make a list, compare prices and employ a bit of shopping savvy. The holiday season doesn’t last very long…relax and enjoy it!