Even the most frugal person will catch the shopping fever this holiday season. It happens to the best of us and there are various reasons why. Of course there are the incredible 24-hour, mega-sales which are advertised everywhere and pretty impossible to ignore. They seem great on TV or in the flyers, but in reality these types of sales will cause you to buy more than you actually need. The time frame for holiday shopping is also exceptionally long, lasting more than a month for the average shopper. You may think you will get all of your shopping done in early November, but then end up returning to the mall three or four times after that, maybe because you missed a person or two on your list. The long shopping season allows you to spread out your holiday shopping so you don’t feel like you are spending as much, but in the end you’ll be shocked by the state of your bank balance. And finally, giving and selflessness seem contagious (in a good way) during the holiday season. However, these feelings alone might cause you to exceed your budget. With all of these factors pulling at your willpower and your wallet, BBB wants to suggest a few tips to avoid over-spending this holiday season:
1. Before you hit the mall, make a set list of who you will be shopping for this holiday season. Try to limit it to the people who are the most important in your life or those who are typically generous during the holiday season or maybe all year round. Really nail down your list before you start shopping and avoid adding people to it as you go. Start with BBB’s and ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solution’s Holiday Budget Calculator.
2. Consider a gift exchange between friends, family, or co-workers. Gift exchanges such as “Secret Santa” and “Yankee Swap” allow everyone in a larger group to give and receive a gift, but everyone is only responsible for one gift. This allows you to focus your efforts and money on one fantastic gift that someone will walk away with and truly appreciate.
3. Based on your budget, try to determine how much money you want to spend on each person on your list based on what you know about the person and how close you are with them. For example, your mother is more likely to pay attention to and remember what you got her than your Uncle Joe.
4. Start looking for possible gift ideas ahead of time. Browsing a few websites allows you to pinpoint which specific items you might buy, see what stores have it and compare prices between similar gifts and the stores that carry them. Also, you are more likely to feel pressured to buy something that is too expensive or not on sale if you wait until the last minute to start looking.
5. Take a trip to the mall without your wallet. Not having any money to spend will allow you to look at things subjectively instead of buying the first great gift you find. It will also help you factor in the person you are buying the gift for and how much they will appreciate it. Sometimes when we are in the store and spending our own money, we tend to think of how much something appeals to us rather than the person we are getting it for. While you are there, make a list of what caught your eye and how much each item cost. This will allow you to narrow down your list even more and avoid a spending spree in mid-December.
6. When it comes time to start your shopping, make sure you are sticking to your list and your budget. Try to limit your shopping time to an hour or two. This will reduce the amount of time you have to make impulsive purchases you will regret.
If you are trying to shop on a budget this year, don’t feel pressured to spend more than you can afford. Yes, it’s always nice to show the people you care about how much they mean to you, but no one is going to give you a hard time for budgeting yourself. And if they do, they probably have a misunderstanding of what the holiday season is all about.
Better Business Bureau wishes you a happy and safe holiday season this year.