You’re making a list and checking it twice, but it can still be easy to overspend when it comes to shopping for the holidays. Whether you’re buying presents for family or a special gift for someone near and dear, holiday shopping can be a stressful experience if you’re on a tight budget. Here are our top tips for stretching your holiday money.
Start Early… On Dec. 26th
While many retailers work extra hard to attract shoppers during the holiday season, the truth is that there are often plenty of opportunities to find the things on your list during the rest of the year. December 26th is also one of the best times to buy leftover wrapping supplies for next year!
This tip won’t work for “newly released” products like the latest electronic gadgets, but for everything else, there’s no rule that says you have to wait until December to start shopping every year. Just be sure to pay attention to the retailer’s return policy and stash the receipt in case it’s available at a better price later on in the year or the recipient changes their mind.
Stick To Your List
It’s easy to get distracted when you see a cuddly throw blanket between you and the checkout in a retail store, or when an online store suggests a cute scarf to go with the sweater you just added to your cart. But if you weren’t looking for these extra items in the first place, adding them to your purchase is only going to spread your budget thinner.
Sticking to your list is also a smart strategy for when you go holiday shopping as a group. When you’re shopping with others, it’s especially easy to make buying decisions without thinking them through. Make your list and avoid the unnecessary extras. This is also the time to set dollar limits – it’s the act of giving that counts, not the price tag.
Don’t Pay With Money You Don’t Have
Credit cards and personal lines of credit make it easy to overspend when holiday shopping because you don’t have to worry about paying for anything right away. Use these credit options responsibly, with a firm plan to repay the debt in a timely manner to minimize interest costs. If you have concerns about your ability to manage or repay credit, keep to cash. When you pay for gifts with cash, you’re sure to avoid the holiday hangover of carrying a big debt into the new year.
Shopping smart this holiday means you’ll be able to enjoy the season without worrying about overspending. You’ll also be less likely to be haunted by the ghost of holidays past in the form of big debts that you’d end up paying off for months. Most importantly, remember that the holidays are about sharing time with family and friends, not about shopping and presents.