Unless you are one of those rare unicorns that manages to shop a little throughout the year and have all of your holiday shopping already in the bag (pun intended), you’re probably just starting to gear up for the gift-giving season.
If you are like me, you may have previously found yourself in a department store in late December agonizing over what gift to get a loved one, only to wind up paying too much for something that you aren’t even sure the recipient will like.
Beyond some of the basics, such as avoiding putting Christmas purchases on a credit card, saving gas and time by shopping online, and using coupons to save money, here are some tips to keep you on budget and help you stay sane this holiday season.
Make Your List… and Check it Twice
If it works for Santa it will work for you, too. Plus let’s face it, unless you are independently wealthy, “winging it” is probably not the best plan of attack this holiday season. Make a list of everyone you intend to spend money on and assign dollar values to each one. I also suggest adding other costs that come with the holiday season to your list such as travel expenses.
Consider Experiences Over Stuff and Quality Over Quantity
As easy as it is to get caught up in material things, try to remember that Christmas isn’t about what or how much you can get. Spend your money wisely and value those things—and those people—that really matter. After you review your list, you may find that some will do fine with a nice card or homemade cookies, allowing you to free up funds for those who are most important to you.
Instead of buying material goods that your family members aren’t that excited about, consider buying a day or weekend trip that you can share together. Also, consider making gifts. Homemade presents are a great way to save money while creating something memorable. These gifts might not work for everyone on your list, but they’re good options for some.
Apply Extra Effort to Major Purchases
First, do your research. If you’ve got a big item on your list such as a laptop, game system, tablet computer, flat-screen TV, or digital camera, spend a little time checking out the various options and brands available and consider previous models.
Then, track prices. If you’re shopping with a big online retailer like Amazon, you can set up a tracker through websites like CamelCamelCamel. You can check out past prices of the items you’re shopping for to determine whether now is a good time to buy or if you should wait for the price to drop.
Finally, consider pooling money with other family members. This is a great way to give a high-quality gift without breaking the bank.
Other Helpful Reminders
- Remember, spending is not saving. It doesn’t matter how good the deal is, don’t let the thrill of the deal be your excuse for spending more money than you should.
- Factor in shipping costs.
- Get a jump on next year by snatching up some post-holiday deals this January.
- Don’t forget about charitable gifts and the gift of your personal time, which can often be more valuable than monetary gifts.
The holidays should be a joyful season filled with friends, family, and time spent focusing on what matters. Don’t get stressed out by last-minute shopping expeditions and don’t place unnecessary expectations on yourself. Take a deep breath, do some planning in advance, and give thoughtfully this holiday season.
Megan Nichols, CFP®
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