Every year, millions of Americans take to the streets in December. Searching for the perfect holiday gifts can be stressful, expensive, and overwhelming. The good news is that shopping smart is as easy as The Three P’s: Planning, Purchasing, and Protecting.
You have your list and you’re checking it twice. But will these gifts fit into your budget? Overspending is easy when you don’t know how much you have. In my family, we come up with an overall amount that can be spent, and divide that amount amongst those for whom we buy gifts. Immediate family members get a higher allotment than extended family, while friends get a little less, and all the extras (co-workers, mail carrier, and neighbor) get the smallest budgeted amounts. All of these need to fit into the overall budget. I usually leave a bit of padding for last-minute gifting and wrapping.
Remember, it’s the thought that counts. Try to focus on purchasing what the recipient will actually enjoy receiving, rather than a glitzy, glamourous, pricey gift that they don’t know how to use.
Additionally, how about travel costs and food? Whether you’re flying to grandma’s or hosting a dinner, you need to prepare for the cost by setting aside money for those activities.
It can be very difficult to stay focused when the kids are along for the ride. Plan your shopping day and arrange to have a babysitter or significant other stay home with the little ones while you’re out and about.
Honestly, I begin my holiday shopping around Halloween. It may be irritating to see Christmas items on shelves before Thanksgiving, but it’s nice to spare the headache of crowded stores, endless lines, and empty shelves. If you’re worried about waiting for a sale, keep the receipt. If the item goes on sale after Black Friday, ask the store to refund the difference.
Some of my most-frequented stores offer member rewards programs. Just by using an app on the smart phone or scanning a little key fob, all kinds of discounts and cash back points can be earned. Additionally, some of these stores email or mail valuable coupons that when combined with sales add up to huge savings. Slashing the cost of gifts means I can buy myself a nice outfit to wear to holiday parties!
Shopping local is a soapbox I mount each holiday season. While local or handmade items may be a tad more expensive, the value you’re investing in your community and local families is priceless. I do believe what comes around goes around.
What are the most expensive purchases you make? Jewelry and electronics most likely top the list. Unfortunately, these are also thieves’ most coveted items, and the easiest to lose or break. Most stores offer product protection services such as extended warranties, user support, and service plans. If a purchase is blowing a large hole in your budget and loss would be devastating, consider purchasing a little extra protection.
Fraud is one of those things that “will never happen to me.” But it happens to a lot of people, a lot of the time. The most vulnerable time is during the holiday shopping season. Keep an eye on your bank account for unfamiliar charges. Verify your credit and debit cards carry fraud protection will help set your mind at ease.
With a little planning the holiday shopping experience can be a pleasant one. Happy Holidays!
Do you have any tips for the holiday shopping season? We’d love to read your comments!
(Photo courtesy of jay8085 from Flickr)