It’s the most wonderful time of the year which means it’s time to tackle holiday shopping. Use these twelve spending tips to stay on budget and save.
The holiday season is here and it’s time to create a game plan for spending if you haven’t already. As you know, the joy of coming together with friends and family can add up – seasonal decor, meals, gifts, etc. The National Retail Federation forecasts that consumers are expected to spend between $957.3 and $966.6 billion during November and December – a 3 to 4% increase from 2022.
Try these tips to keep you from breaking the bank this holiday season.
Holiday Spending Survival Guide
Use our free Holiday Spending Survival Guide to easily keep track of your budget and following these steps.
12 Ways To Save This Season
Tip #1: Cyber Monday
The first Monday after Thanksgiving is like Black Friday, but online from the comfort of your home in PJs – don’t worry, we won’t judge. The first Cyber Monday was created by Shop.org in 2005 and typically boasts the best online deals of the year for holiday shopping.
Here’s how to find the best deals:
- Check online for lists of promotions and ads.
- Follow retailers you’re interested in on social media or sign up for email alerts.
- Keep shipping costs in mind when you’re making purchases. The shipping might be too expensive and outweigh any savings.
Tip #2: Small Business Saturday®
Typically held the Saturday after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday is an annual holiday created in 2010 to encourage consumers to bring seasonal shopping to small businesses. With over 30 million small businesses in the U.S., you’re bound to find all the gifts you need within your community.
Small Business Saturday doesn’t only apply to traditional retail storefronts. If you’re still on the hunt for gifts, purchasing a gift card to a local restaurant or spa are great options and support your local community as well. You’ll feel good while getting your holiday shopping done.
Tip #3: Make A List
Maybe you only have a couple gifts to buy this year. Or maybe you have a list as long as Santa. To help save money, consider setting expectations for the number of gifts you plan to give. One way to do this is to buy four gifts per person – something they want, something they need, something they’ll wear, and something they’ll read.
Make sure you communicate your plans, ask for a list, and if you find that’s still too many gifts to buy, see if you can exchange names instead. A good reminder is that if you’re trying to save money, other people might be too, so don’t give them an overwhelming list of expensive items either.
Tip #4: Get Crafty
Looking to save money? Make your presents instead of buying them. Take advantage of websites like Pinterest to find creative and low-cost items to make for the holidays.
Just remember that DIY doesn’t always mean cheap or low cost. If you have to buy a bunch of items just to make one thing, it’s probably not cost effective. To help save money, make multiples of the same gifts to give.
Tip #5: Stay Focused
Surprise: stores want you to spend more money during the holiday season and they have many ways to encourage you to do so – including appealing to your five senses.
During the holidays, keep the following in mind and remember to use your head, not your heart while out shopping.
- Touch: Displays are designed in certain ways to encourage you to buy the pricier items which are set in the middle. You’re also more likely to buy things when you can touch and feel them.
- Sight: Exciting displays attract multiple senses. The colors used are picked for specific reasons as well. Red and green, the more popular holiday colors, have specific meanings. Red stimulates and energizes to encourage overspending. Green symbolizes wealth and creativity.
- Hearing: Stores play classic holiday music to encourage nostalgia and positive moods which can lead to staying longer and overspending.
- Smell: Pine and peppermint are used by stores to evoke certain emotions to encourage more shopping and spending.
- Taste: There’s a reason stores offer even more free samples during the holidays. There’s also a reason stores have holiday-only food and beverage items – if you know it’s only available during a limited time period, you’re more likely to increase the frequency with which you purchase and consume.
- Heart: Not a sense, but stores use your emotions against you during the holidays. Long lines, crowded stores, one-day only sales, early bird specials, etc. are all designed to increase the likelihood of impulse purchases.
Best way to shop with your head: create a plan and follow it.
Tip #6: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Reduce Holiday Costs
- If you’re not traveling this year, consider calculating approximately how much money you saved by not driving or flying. Then, set that money aside in a gift fund or give yourself a present by putting it into savings.
- Review your gift list and ask yourself – does everyone on this list really need a gift? Or will a card or baked goods be enough?
- You don’t need to go all Buddy the Elf on your house when it comes to decorations. Focus on what matters the most to you and your family.
- Do you keep old holiday cards you’ve received? Reuse them as postcards, decorations or even gift tags.
- Find old photos to use as gifts.
- Have a gift you’ve never used? Regift it – just make sure it’s not going to the original gift giver!
- Holiday parties to attend? Don’t buy a new outfit! Go through your closet and double-check there aren’t any pieces in there you haven’t worn before. If there’s nothing new or you want something different, piece together different items to make a fun outfit. For example, try layering a sweater or flannel shirt over a sundress or wearing a graphic t-shirt with a blazer over it. The possibilities are endless when you shop your closet.
- Ready for a new holiday decor theme? Find someone who is also tired of their decor and swap. Check your local Buy Nothing Project group and be sure to follow proper safety protocols.
Tip #7: Get The Best Price
Use deal sites to find discounts, deals, and best prices. Some deal sites include: Deal Seeking Mom, RetailMeNot, Groupon, PriceGrabber.
Know if the stores you’re planning to shop at have price match policies and what they are. A few major retailers will price match, but only within certain timeframes and not always on all items. Shop around and know the details to ensure you get the best deal.
Tip #8: Treat Yourself Sparingly
According to Gallup, 64% of shoppers plan on buying gifts for themselves while shopping for others. Cut back on personal spending by making a list of only one or two things you’ll pick up while you’re out. If you really want or need something, consider adding it to your wishlist to give to family and friends.
Tip #9: Cook Smarter
When picking out recipes for meals or baked goods, take into consideration the ingredients required. For example, rather than purchasing three types of flour for different dishes, consider finding three recipes that use the same type of flour.
When building your shopping list, make sure you look at deals and specials too. Find coupons online or in the paper and find stores that allow double coupons to save even more. Many retailers now have an app where you can choose coupons ahead of time to make shopping even easier.
Tip #10: Create New Memories
To save money or even try something different, consider making new traditions with a small group of family members or friends.
- Decorate a tree together.
- Set up a video conference call with all your family members and wear fun sweaters.
- Drive around with hot cocoa and look at lights.
- Have a holiday movie marathon.
- Volunteer or consider dropping off pre-packaged food at a local shelter, nursing home, or hospital.
- Gather a group of friends, family, or neighbors to send a care package to soldiers.
Tip #11: Focus On Experiences
A gift doesn’t have to be a material item. Make a suggestion to spend time, not money, together. Some ideas include:
- Purchase a tour or excursion on Groupon or a similar website.
- Volunteer together.
- Visit family and friends at their home.
- Drive around and look at holiday lights.
- Host a game night.
- Find free events and activities in your city and invite others to join.
- Start a new low-cost/free tradition.
Tip #12: Prepare For Next Year
Keep track of what you spend this year to build a plan for next year. Add up what you spend and divide it by 10 (if you plan to start shopping in November) or 11 (if you plan to start shopping in December). Once you have that number, set up automatic transfers to a designated saving account for that amount. When the holiday season rolls around again, you’ll be ready to go!
For example, if you spend $800 on the holidays and plan to start shopping in November next year, that means you’d need to save $800/10 = $80 a month. You can set automatic transfer each paycheck, each week, or once a month.
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