Ten tips to help you stay out of holiday shopping debt
In our intense consumer-oriented world, the signs of the upcoming holiday season began before summer ended. However, now that Halloween is approaching, merchants have ramped up their advertising and marketing efforts to remind you that it is time to begin buying all those holiday goodies. Merchants want to be sure that they have a healthy bottom line, much of which depends upon a robust holiday shopping season. They want your money. You want to avoid the painful hangover that comes from over-charged credit cards and depleted savings accounts. Here are ten tips to help you from that all too familiar post-holiday depression that hits when you see the bills from your holiday-shopping spree.
1. Budget. Before you head to the internet or shopping mall, make a list of all the gifts you need to buy, including for yourself. Ideally, you set aside money during the year for this purpose. But assuming you did not, carefully and realistically assess how much you can afford to spend. Will you be able to meet the new credit card monthly payment requirements? Set a spending limit and stick to it.
2. Join the seasonal employee labor force. Thousands of new jobs are created across the retailing industry expressly to cover the holiday season. If you have extra time and energy, join up. You will earn extra cash to help you with your holiday purchasing.
3. Avoid the temptation to take out more credit cards, even with the seemingly great introductory deals. The malls especially, will be filled with salespeople peddling bank and merchant credit cards to help you buy more. Run away from them.
4. Shop early. Do not fall into the trap of believing that the best prices come in the final days before the holidays begin. While it may look like the sales are awesome, in actuality, retailers raise the price and then offer a sale on the raised price. Better to buy earlier and pay the true price.
5. Shop around. Compare prices and research product so you know if the higher priced brand is really worth it. Join shopping forums, such as those on Facebook to be a part of the most current discussion and reviews of popular products.
6. Shop online and take advantage of all cash-back and coupon offers. There are many shopping apps that direct you to the best bargains and the best rewards programs.
7. If your budget is limited, try pooling resources. For instance, for extended family, rather than each member buying gifts for everyone, draw names so that you buy a gift for only one member of the family. You can make it even more fun by creating a game where the recipient has to guess who gave the gift. This way the financial burden on everyone is reduced.
8. Create gifts. One of the most popular gifts today are scrapbooks with photos from a previous era. It is not an expensive gift, but it takes time to collect the photos and design the scrapbook. Hobby stores are full of craft supplies to help you with this project. It is not a last-minute gift, so start now.
9. Give a gift of service rather than a purchased item. For instance, if you are a photographer, give a gift of free photography. If you love to cook and are proficient, give a gift of free catering. Give a gift of so-many hours of free childcare. The possibilities are endless, bordered only by your time and the special needs/interests of your family and friends.
10. If travel is in your holiday plans, be smart when booking flights and hotels. Consider flying on a Saturday, Tuesday or Wednesday when, according to the airline industry, the prices are lower. Take advantage of the many online booking sites that cater to the budget traveler. If you can be spontaneous, wait until the last minute to purchase, when the prices are heavily discounted.