The holidays are HERE, and many of us will get caught up in the excitement of the season and be sent into a last minute spending frenzy. In fact, The National Retail Federation reports that holiday shoppers are expected to spend an average of $704.18 on holiday gifts and seasonal merchandise this year.
If you find that the only holiday tradition you have is to overspend, take heart in the old saying that ‘traditions were made to be broken.’ This year, I challenge you not to overspend! If you follow these tips and use a little creativity and commitment, you’ll be kicking off a new year this January without the burden of holiday debt – which is the best gift that you can give yourself!
So to help you this year, I’m giving you my 9 LAST MINUTE Holiday Tips to save you money:
1. If you haven’t started yet, make a detailed list.
Write out who you’re buying for and how much you can afford to spend for each gift. When you add it all up, you’ll know if you need to cut back the list or perhaps decrease your spending limit per person. Impulse purchases will quickly get you off track, so bring the list with you when you shop — and resolve to stick to it.
When making your list think about chipping in with a family member or friend. Or getting for something less costly but more meaningful — a carefully chosen book, a favorite photo in a frame, even a homemade treat made with love.
2. Use cash.
If, like the average shopper I mentioned above, you spend $700 on gifts and then charge it all on your credit cards. Then you only make the minimum payment each month, at a rate of 18 percent you’ll end up paying another $700 in interest and it will take you 131 months to pay it all off!
Paying with cash makes your spending more real and will cut down on your urge to splurge. If you can’t afford to pay for a gift with cash, then more than likely you can’t afford it.
3. Shop online.
A recent study by management consulting firm Accenture says that 59% of shoppers expect to buy more than half of their gifts online. When it comes to online shopping, remember – online prices often beat out in-store prices, but will require you to use your credit card. Shop with the card that has the lowest interest rate and keep track of what you’re charging. If you don’t pay your balance off in full, you’ll more than wipe out the saving benefits of buying online.
According to The National Retail Federation’s Shop.org division a record 92.5% of online retailers will offer free shipping at some point this holiday. If you meet the minimum purchase requirement, you’ll want to take advantage of free shipping offers for gifts you plan to ship long-distance. You’ll save yourself a bundle, not to mention long lines at the post office.
4. Compare prices.
Another advantage to shopping online is the myriad of comparison tools available on the Internet to help you find the best deal. Check out sites like Shopping.com, ShopZilla.com and PriceGrabber.com.
Most sites will even offer a bottom-line comparison, which shows you the best deal with tax and shipping included. For big-ticket items, comparing prices before you buy will pay off big-time.
5. Use coupon codes.
This is one of my favorite ways to get some good deals while shopping online. Don’t leave that “coupon code” field blank when you’re ready to check out. Take a moment to visit sites that offer discount codes for hundreds of stores — from Amazon to Zappos. Check out: RetailMeNot , CouponCabin, Buxr, BradsDeals, and Coupon Sherpa.
6. Draw names from a hat.
With a large family or group of friends, it’s just not feasible to buy a gift for everyone with out spending a fortune. Instead, pre-select names from a hat so that each member of the family or group only buys a gift for the name that they’ve chosen. Set a spending limit and have some fun with it. Visit SecretSanta.com for entertaining variations on this idea.
7. Donate to a charity.
For the person who has everything, consider making a donation in their honor to a charity that holds special meaning for them. At JustGive.org you can buy a donation certificate to give as a gift. Your recipients can then choose a charity to donate to and as a bonus, you’ll get a nice tax deduction.
8. Host a potluck dinner.
You can do a great job of keeping your gift list in check and then blow your whole budget on an overly expensive dinner for your guests. Steer clear of splurging on lobster tail and filet mignon when you’re on a tuna fish budget. If it’s your turn to host family and friends this year, take some of the burden off by asking your guests to each bring a favorite dish or dessert.
9. Wrap with recyclables.
Sometimes we end up spending more on wrapping paper than we do for actual gifts. When I was a kid and we ran out of wrapping paper, my creative mom used the comics from the Sunday paper to finish the job. It looked cool and didn’t cost a dime.
Happy Holidays! Live Rich!