Holiday shopping is a lot like paying income taxes: you dread it when
it rolls around each year, you know you can’t get out of it, but you
put it off as long as possible anyway. Of course, there are some
individuals who pay their taxes as soon as they get their W-2; these are
also the same individuals who shop for the holidays in August.
However, the majority of people can’t quite get it together that quickly
when it comes to finding gifts for everyone on their list.
The trouble with this methodology is that it ends up costing you
money, says the California Association of Marriage and Family
Therapists. They advise shoppers to plan ahead and start early to avoid
last minute impulse spending, as well as overspending, to try to please
everyone for whom you are shopping. That’s the best way to survive what
they call a “financial meltdown” this season.
Here are a few more ideas they offered in a recent press release:
- Make a list — Make a list of everyone for whom you are buying a
gift, and put a dollar amount next to their names. When you shop, be
sure you stick to that pre-determined amount for each person.
- Keep it realistic – Tell your kids, family and friends that
you’re keeping the costs down when you shop for the holidays and then be
sure you follow through.
- Start saving as soon as possible – Put aside as much as you can each
week to help get you through the holiday season. Paying cash will
eliminate after-holiday, debt, including those exorbitant finance
- Get a head start – Try to finish gift shopping by Thanksgiving at the latest to avoid the holiday rush.
- Shop online – Shopping online saves gas and time. Also, many virtual
retailers offer special discounts and savings on shipping/handling
costs in order to attract shoppers.
- DIY — Try giving a home-made gift in stead of a something you
bought. This is especially appreciated if the gift is something the
recipient can use as part of a hobby or an activity they enjoy, like a
basket of gardening tools, or flavored cooking oils. Plan ahead so you
aren’t stressed to finish them on time.
- Start a family exchange – If buying separate gifts for all the
family members is too costly, put everyone’s names in a hat and let each
family member choose a person for whom they will buy a gift. Gift
exchanges allow each person to buy one special gift so you won’t go
- Use a rewards credit card – If you must use a credit card, use a
rewards card to get the most out of your dollar. Those holiday purchases
can help you earn miles for a cheap or even free vacation later in the
Okay, now you have a list, you have your cash, and you’re just
itching to get started. But before you have at it, take a couple of
minutes to read these tips about where to look for the best dollar
stretchers this season. They appear courtesy of bargain shopping expert
Karen Hoxmeier of MyBargainBuddy.com, who divulged them in a recent
- Look to apparel for the biggest discounts — Clothing retailers are
being hit hard by the poor economy and are discounting the current
season’s merchandise earlier than they normally would. They are
practically giving away last season’s merchandise. Head to your favorite
clothing store and scope out the clearance racks!
- Take a trip to the big-box retailer — Mom and Pop shops typically
have lower operating costs, making it possible for them to offer better
prices. However, big-box stores can offer volume discounts, special
financing on big ticket items, and they aren’t as adversely affected by
selling clearance items below cost.
- Watch your timing — Stores sell clothes a season ahead, that’s why
you can never find a pair of sandals in July. Shopping off-season for
clothing can save you a ton of money. Buy a winter coat in January and
swimsuits in September, when they have been moved to the clearance
section. If you want to save money on electronics, waiting is the way to
go! Look at the iPhone. The introductory price was $599. Just 3 months
later, the price dropped $200. The first plasma TVs were priced over
$5,000. Today, you can get one for under $1,000. New technology gets not
only gets cheaper with time, but it also gets better. Remember how
large the first cell phones were? Enough said!
And what about Black Friday, is going out into the sea of shoppers
really worth it? Karen thinks so, if you follow one simple rule, “If you
stick to buying only the ‘Door Busters’, Black Friday is a great day to
The stores rely on the door busters to get shoppers in the door.
Fortunately for them, people tend to buy other things, making the hit
they take on the door buster item worth it. Look through the ads, snatch
up the bargains and get out!” Make that your mantra this November 28th,
and all that braving of crowds will be worth it.