Christmas Shop Smarter, Not Harder

It’s getting to be that season again!

Forget any other time of year; it is safe to say that society can be the least frugal during the holidays. Yet no matter how much love you have towards your family, nobody wants to be in over their eyeballs in credit card debt come the New Year, and yet that’s the place many Americans find themselves in long after St. Nick comes to call. A recent statistic shows that the average citizen spends an upwards of $800 on Christmas presents, and this number only continues to grow from year to year.

Whether you have 1 child or 5, and whether your income is substantial or lacking, everybody likes to save money.

But where do we draw the line? Ever tried doing a total DIY Christmas? Sure, you may save some money, but after the initial cost of supplies and the intense amount of time it takes, one can begin to question if it is even worth it or not.

Let’s talk about re-gifting. This might be okay every once and awhile (mainly if the gift in question was never used) but too much re-gifting is downright tacky – especially when this tactic stoops to levels of taking objects from the basement and trying to pass them off as presents.  Let’s face it, we all know someone who does this (or, alright, maybe you’ve done it too!)

Here are some of the most frequently suggested tips from experts on how to shop this holiday season.

#1: Set a budget. It may sound like an obvious statement, but keep reading. The most important thing about setting a budget is sticking to it! First, decide on a number you are comfortable spending. Always try to set it a little higher than you normally would – you may not want to, until the moment comes when you’re inches from a display window and regretting the original number set. Setting an unrealistically low number can cause a splurge later.

One way to deter from overspending is by taking out your entire budget in cash. Cash is tangible, visible. If you plan to primarily shop online (see #2), cash can still be counted. The solution is to record the exact amount of money that was charged (luckily most online shopping sites have a transaction history feature in case you lose track). From there, subtract the amount spent online from the cash.

#2: Shop online when you can. Unfortunately, there are just some things you can’t always find online. What is more, items like clothes are very difficult to distinguish online in terms of determining their true size. More often than not, online shopping is cheaper, however. According to consumer-retail experts, there are certain days of this season that can prove cheaper than others. You can find a lot of kids toys on Amazon for significantly less than the big-names.Holiday shopping using laptop computer, photographed against christmas tree lights

November 1st-11th oftentimes holds sales for what is called Early Black Friday. Items are known to be marked down 20%-30%. Check big-name retail store websites over the weekend, BUT wait until Monday to buy – by then, they will have matched their competitors.

December 1st is cyber Monday. This is the day you are more likely to find deals 30%-40% off, especially on specific websites like DealNews.com, UrbanOutfitters.com, OldNavy.Gap.com, and Shop.Nordstrom.com.

#3. Make a list. And check it twice! And prioritize. Sometimes the people closest to us can be tricky to shop for. If you go into a store with the mentality of “I’m only going to spend $30 on this person”, but you have no concept of what to get them, then you aren’t going to spend what you set out to.

If the saying is true, that it is “the thought that counts” – be thoughtful! Pay attention. Try to find something they might need, or lack, even if it is not something you yourself would consider a gift. Oftentimes making a list prior to setting a budget works for some individuals. It provides a much better understanding of what needs to be spent if you are to follow through. If it seems like it will be too much, try to shorten the list or get a less extravagant gift for an extended family member you normally wouldn’t spend that much money on.

This will also help in getting the best possible deal. For example, if you have decided, resolutely, that you are getting your daughter-in-law a Crockpot, then by golly, you are going to find the very best deal on a Crockpot humanly possible.

All in all, we know that Christmas isn’t all about the gifts, but about family. Remember the reason you celebrate and the reason the season is in place. Do not let pressure to get the right gifts overwhelm you. Spending every weekend during the holidays at the mall is no fun. This will set a good example to your children as well – instilling the value of traditions during this season can contribute to some of their fondest, warmest Christmas memories.