Pre-Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturdays, and Cyber Monday. Holiday shopping season is upon us. Going to the gas station after Thanksgiving dinner to grab a newspaper to see all the sales papers has been a staple of my holiday shopping kickoff for years. This time of year can be so overwhelming that many forget to take the time to stop and think before we shop. We look up and say "what just happened?" Well no more. I want us to be Holiday season successful by purchasing and swiping responsibly. The best defense to runaway holiday spending is a good financial defense.
The most helpful step in planning your holiday shopping is to establish a realistic budget based on your current cash flow and financial obligations. This should be easy to identify if you have a monthly financial plan you monitor (Need help setting up your financial plan? Check out the "Tools" page). If you don't, you will need to identify your current monthly income and expenses, which will guide your spending plan. It is important that once you create a budget you stick to it. Here are tips for creating your holiday budget:
Make a list of who you're buying gifts for
Determine your current monthly income and expenses in order to recognize how much money you will have left over to put towards the holidays.
Once you make your budget of how much you can spend, allocate that amount to the people on your list.
Do not go into the stores unprepared and fall into the trap of impulse buying. Plan your trip and gifts out in advance and stick to your plan.
Money Saving Tips
1) "Cashin' Thru the Store" - One of the best ways to watch how much you are spending is to buy gifts with CASH whenever possible; do not use credit cards. If you only pay in cash, then when you run out, you run out. Keeping track of how much you are spending is much easier if you have the money physically on hand.
2) "Jingle Sales" - Make use of sales, coupons, and internet sites, especially those with free shipping. Also, don’t rush to shop. Can you purchase gifts after December 25? Perhaps give gift cards that can be used at the after Christmas sales. You can also see if the store or stores you are shopping at have a layaway program. Layaways allows you to pay a little bit each week, interest free, so by the time you are ready to give the gift it is already paid for.
3) "Oh What Fun It Is To Buy...Online" - The rise of online shopping has opened a whole new world of possibilities for taking care of the holiday list. If you are ordering online, make sure you check the total price, as well as shipping timing. You should also make sure to do your research. Not only are there a growing number of sites competing to offer the lowest price, but there are also coupon websites popping up that list current web deals and coupon codes.
Having a plan will help you survive the holiday shopping season. Remember the reason for the season and hopefully these tips help reduce holiday shopping stress.