The holidays! The parties, the songs, the gifts! The negative number in your bank account? For those of us on a budget, the holidays can be rough. People can find themselves in a spending free-fall over the holidays. In fact, consumer counseling agencies see a 25 percent increase in the number of people seeking help in January and February because they spent so much more in December.
This year, shopping most likely will be more expensive. Many consumers are starting to worry about the effect that supply chain issues may have on their holiday shopping. There have been record backlogs at U.S. ports due to COVID-19 protocols, labor shortages and a delay of raw materials that has already resulted in supply chain problems. You probably have seen shortages in stores. And experts predict the pickings will be slimmer this Christmas, especially for products such as toys. The shortages are causing a spike in prices.
One way to find discounts to help with curbing those costs is to start early with shopping. Twenty-seven percent of holiday shoppers planned to begin buying gifts before the end of September, found a survey by CreditCards.com published in September.
“Some people are hyper-organized. Others may still be worried that stuff will sell out or take a lot of time to be delivered,” Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, told CNBC. “Some people are always in this bargain-hunting mode.”
A little planning can help you from becoming a holiday over-spender.
Here are a few tips so you can save more money than you spend this season:
1. Set a spending limit: Establishing clear boundaries before you go shopping will prevent you from accidentally spending more money than you can realistically afford. It’s important to set a budget for all shopping and gift buying. It is easy to go overboard and use the holidays as an excuse. Set a spending limit for everything and stick to it.
2. Make a list, check it twice: When you don’t have a list you tend to impulse buy, and impulse buying can blow any well-planned budget.
A number of free apps will help you organize and track your gift-buying. Some of them even allow people to share their wish list with you. Among the apps are: Giftster, Santa’s Bag, Gift List Diary, GiftPlanner and Christmas Gift List.
3. Leave the plastic at home: Credit cards, while useful, can make you think that you have more money than you actually do. When shopping, take cash and shop with this motto in mind, “When the cash is gone, I’m gone.” This means that you leave the store and shopping is over.
4. Use coupons and discounts: During the holiday season, there will be a ton of sales and coupons to entice you to buy. Be sure to take advantage of these. Try not to buy anything at full price.
5. Use technology to hunt down sales: Trying to find the perfect gift and save money on it can be overwhelming, but using today’s technology can save you money and time. Free apps like ShopAdvisor, RetailMeNot and Rakuten Rewards allow you to search for a particular item, coupon codes and sales. Most of the apps will even alert you when a sale or price drop occurs.
6. Set up a savings account for your holiday shopping: Your mom might have used a Christmas club account with her credit union or bank. Well, they’re still around and can be useful. You can either open a Christmas club or a savings account for the purpose of accumulating money to shop for the holidays. Once you set up the account, you make deposits throughout the year. The accumulated savings can be withdrawn and used for holiday shopping. This way you are not using credit cards or overspending. This money has already been saved for the purpose of shopping.
7. Yes, you can even save with friends: Saving with a goal can make saving easier, but having like-minded friends can help as well. You can think of them as accountability partners. You and your friends could agree to save $100 every two weeks. You keep each other on track, discuss progress and celebrate when you reach your goal together!
8. Shop around: Almost every store will have a sale, especially as we get closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Be prepared to take advantage of those sales by making a list of what you want to buy and then doing the research.
9. Shop Black Friday, Cyber Monday or another Winter Sale: It should go without saying, but shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday has become somewhat of a tradition. If you want to find a good gift deal for your friends or family, it’s a great time to go shopping. And if you miss Black Friday or Cyber Monday, don’t worry. There are often rolling sales for retail goods throughout the entire month of December.
10. Pick Up Some Extra Work: If you want to make a little more money over the holidays (and you have the time), then there are usually opportunities with retailers. If you have any social networking, editing or Web development skills try Elance.com, Odesk.com and Freelancer.com to find paid work. If you have more specific skills, try the website Fiverr.com, which allows users to sell and buy services for $5 and up. Or clean out your closet by selling stuff on eBay or Etsy. Follow these tips and you will be able to focus more on the spirit of the season and not the cost of it.