‘Tis the Season … to Shop Wisely
The holidays can be a wonderful time to connect with friends and loved ones, celebrate the joy of giving and honor what truly matters. Often, however, the holiday season leaves consumers feeling financially and emotionally drained. A national survey on holiday spending by Experian, a leading credit rating agency, found the following:
- 56% of people surveyed said they spend too much during the holiday season.
- 55% of people surveyed feel stressed about their finances during the holidays.
- 43% of people surveyed said the extra expense makes the holidays hard to enjoy.
- 31% of people have gone into debt from unexpected holiday purchases.
Take control of the holiday season and follow these seven tips for smart holiday shopping.
- Set a budget. Sit down with a pen and paper, or your keyboard, and figure out how much you plan to spend this holiday season, who you plan to shop for and how much you plan to spend on each person. Don’t forget all those incidentals such as costs for extra postage, holiday decorations, and pet care expenses if you travel.
- Track your spending. At the end of each day, record what you spent money on that day. This is a great way to monitor what you spend on non-essentials. You may be surprised to see how much you spend on any given day or week and how quickly those numbers add up.
- Start early. Keep your eyes open all year round for gift ideas. Last-minute shopping may lead to impulse purchases and overspending out of desperation. Conversely, you can get some great deals on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), if you can handle the crowds. Check out Blackfriday.com, which compiles ads from various stores and updates the information as it becomes available. Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) is another popular shopping day in which online retailers offer special promotions, discounts and sales.
- Do it yourself. Go online and research sites like Etsy to get ideas for crafty and artisanal gifts. Channel your inner chef and make food-related delights such as traditional baked goods or go nontraditional with dulce de leche, cranberry syrup, or winter orange pomegranate iced tea (recipes found online), all presented in decorative, festive jars and bottles.
- “Secret Santa” game. Embrace a family gift exchange in which you draw names and only shop for one person in the family. Or host a white elephant game in which everyone brings one wrapped gift and each person takes a turn choosing a gift or “stealing” someone else’s gift.
- Help others. Rather than buy a present for someone on your list, make a donation to a charity in that person’s name. Sponsor a family in need, or do volunteer work as a family, such as assembling care packages for shelters, hospitals or the armed forces.
- Accumulate memories, not receipts. Enjoy inexpensive traditions, such as baking cookies, watching classic holiday movies, attending a Christmas play at the local high school, reading favorite childhood stories and looking at light displays.