It’s a time of year some love and others dread: holiday shopping season. When your holiday shopping list is longer than your arm, it’s best to attack it with a smart financial strategy. Setting, and sticking to, a strict budget and picking out the perfect presents for each family member and your friends can be tough.
“This is a very special and magical time of year, but there’s so much to think about,” says Morgan Sheena, founder of the Boston Moms Blog. “Buying gifts for everyone on your list, entertaining, and maximizing your enjoyment of the season can get expensive. Planning ahead, making a budget and sticking to it makes getting through the season so much easier and more enjoyable.”
If you’re gearing up to get your family gift giving on, we offer four tips for buying gifts for your loved ones without going broke:
TIP 1: Make a List and Check It Twice
Before heading out on a shopping excursion, sit down and think about what gifts matter most to each family member. Sometimes the year’s popular toy is a must, but maybe your son or daughter would prefer a new board game you can all play together. The important thing is to make a list, including an estimated cost for each item. This will help you prioritize gifts and even cut down your list before you jump on your Amazon app.
Sticking to your list will also help reduce the amount you spend on impulse purchases. For the colleagues or neighbors on your list, you might consider making baked goods in large batches, such as cookies, and putting them in decorative bags from a bargain store for a festive treat, instead of purchasing a gift or gift card.
TIP 2: Set a Budget and Stick to It
Commit to sticking to an overall budget, and a specific amount for each person on your list. As most parents know, equality between siblings is never more critical than when it comes to the number of presents under the tree. Also, build in a cushion for costs like taxes and shipping. While these costs may seem small, they can add up quickly.
To help you more easily keep track of your spending, consider opening a separate checking account for holiday presents and deposit your gift budget. You can easily check the account balance and ensure you’re on track, without needing to consider other bills or financial obligations.
PRO TIP: Save throughout the year by opening a separate savings account and having your employer directly deposit a certain percentage or amount from each paycheck. Take our quiz to find out which savings account is best for you!
TIP 3: Use Coupons, Discounts and Sales to Your Advantage
You don’t have to be an extreme couponer to get good deals around the holidays. Take your time, comparison shop, and wait for items to go on sale. Major shopping holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be enticing, but retailers often offer comparable sales throughout the holiday season. Please note, however, that as the holiday season goes on, selection may be limited. If you’re looking to buy your child the year’s hottest toy or your partner a new TV, you will still want to shop as early as possible to ensure availability.
Don’t forget to check if you’re eligible for any discounts. Some stores will offer discounts for having a AAA membership, for instance, or your employer may also offer retail discounts as part of your benefit package.
PRO TIP: We asked Chelsea Scott, lifestyle blogger of www.themillennialmiss.com, for her tips for finding a holiday deal. “Treating our loved ones to the perfect present can be both stressful and expensive. I always keep my eyes peeled for a sale, especially during the holidays, because they are happening all around. I'm a huge fan of Groupon and GiltCity, both sites offer incredible discounts on amazing products and services. Also, Good Morning America has daily ‘deals and steals’ which can be a budget friendly way to put presents under the tree. In the middle of digging for sales, remind yourself what the holiday season is truly about,” Chelsea said.
TIP 4: Buy More Meaningful Gifts Rather Than More Expensive Ones
It’s cheesy but true: With gift giving, it’s the thought that counts. Opt for more meaningful presents, like an item based on an inside joke with your family, rather than a fancy, expensive gadget with the latest and greatest features. Not only can it save you money, it will bring your loved ones joy.
The holidays are about spending time with family and friends, not spending down to your last dollar. With planning and patience, you can still give great gifts to those you love. Let us know how we can help you reach your financial goals all year long.
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