The holiday shopping season is coming as marked by the approaching Black Friday. People all over the U.S. will be spending billions of dollars on gifts for friends, family, and co-workers. I think now is more important than ever to be smart about spending money during the holidays. I offer you 9 tips for smart holiday shopping:
First look at your overall budget to determine what you can and are willing to spend this holiday season. Remember that time is tough for many people, so it’s okay to not spend a lot of money this year. Be realistic. Next, sit down with your family and make a list of everyone you are going to buy gift for — this is your Holiday shopping budget. Next to their name, write an amount you are going to spend on them.
After you finish going through the list, you may have to come back and readjust the amount next to each name so that the total fits into your overall budget.
I know that some of you feel that you have to do better than the last year, or give gifts that are just as good as what you are receiving. Personally, I know that feeling and I also feel bad when my gift is not as good as others. But you have to remember that giving gift is not a competition, and it is more important that you buy gifts within your means.
If you really want to give something that’s beyond your means, ask your friends and family to see if they are willing to split the cost. My family occasionally split the cost on really expensive items.
I think buying online is a terrific way to save money when you are shopping for presents. I wrote about saving money by shopping online by using sites like Ebates. Additionally, Madison of My Dollar Plan has a great list of resources for online shopping.
Personally, I recommend using credit card for online shopping due to greater security and the small reward that you can get. However, if you are not comfortable using credit card, using your debit card is okay too. If you don’t have a good reward card yet, here’s a database of the best reward credit cards.
No, I am not a schizo. If you can’t handle credit card, or if you can’t afford to pay the credit card in full, please use cash. Some people claim that you’ll spend less money when you use cash as opposed to credit card.
For example, Lynnae at Being Frugal wrote about The Benefits of a Cash Christmas, and shared why she prefers not to use credit card for holiday shopping.
Remember that you have a list and a tight budget. It’s easy to get distracted regardless of whether you shop online or go to your local stores. These guys are rally good at putting “deals” and “specials” in front of you so that you’ll forget your list and budget.
I know it’s tempting to get that 10% or 20% off your purchase for the day, but don’t do it! You’ll most likely blow your budget, buy stuff you don’t really need, and ended up paying interest with the payment is due.
Let’s think about it for a minute. These stores must be making a lot money on interest and late fees in order to offer you that special 10-20% off deal.
And yes, if you mess up with these store credit cards, your credit scores and history will be affected.
Yes, it’s great that you can buy something and don’t have to pay for it until 6 months later. But that’s another way these stores are getting you to spend more money than you have. Remember that you have a strict budget that you’re following, and you are planning to pay off the credit card in full (if you are using one). So these offers shouldn’t even matter to you.
Stores that offer this kind of deal make astronomical amount of money when you fail to make payment in full in the allotted time. When this happens, they charge you outlandish interest rate on the entire grace period — i.e., 6 months.
I think extended warranties are huge rip offs. First, if you calculate how much they cost as a percentage of the item you are buying, it’s a significant amount. Second, the manufacturer warranty protects you for up to one year against any defect, and that should take care of most problems. Based on my experience, if something is going to break, it will break during the first year. And if it breaks afterward, I probably want a new model by that time.
Pete at Bible Money Matters wrote a long article about how he took advantage of manufacturer’s warranties and why extended warranties should be avoided.
Last but not least, if you still cannot find the perfect gift for some folks on your list, you may consider giving cash. I know some people may think it’s lame, but it may be appreciated by the receiver more than you think. If you feel that giving cash is not the right move, you could also try the college fund contribution angle.
How about you? Do you have any holiday shopping tips that you can share with us? Please do, we can all use some more tips!