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Bring Sanity to Your Holiday Shopping
Every year, too many people overspend during the holidays, only to end up with a credit card hangover in the new year. If you would like to bring some sanity to your holiday shopping, Real Simple has some ideas for where to start.
Make a list. Just as making a grocery list helps you avoid buying things you can’t afford or don’t need, making a holiday list can help you stay on track as you shop for gifts and entertaining. Start by determining how much you can spend on gifts without digging yourself into a financial hole, and then resolve to spend no more than that.
Make a list of all the people to whom you would like to give gifts, and then assign a dollar amount to each person. Include not just the big-gift recipients, such as your family and close friends, but also your child’s teacher or your regular hairstylist. Adjust your list until it is in line with your budget. Be ruthless – your financial well-being depends on it. And remember that the value of a gift is much more than the price tag.
Next, start early. Ideally, you have been keeping your eyes open all year for potential gifts for the people on your list. If you have not done that, at least start now. That allows you to spread your cost out over a longer time. Take advantage of holiday discounts that often begin as early as Halloween. And don’t forget that many retailers offer free or very low-cost layaway for the holidays. It’s best if you put all your early gifts in one spot, though. Otherwise, you might forget about them before the holidays roll around.
Research gift ideas online. You can use the Internet to determine exactly what you want to buy, and then to look for the best price on that item. For example, if you want to give your spouse an iPad or other tablet, go online to find out the differences among the various types. Then check out online and brick-and-mortar retailers for the best deal.
You can get some great deals if you are willing to brave the crowds on Black Friday. Stores open in the middle of the night the day after Thanksgiving, offering huge discounts. Some stores even offer Black Friday discounts before Thanksgiving. Check the website BlackFriday.com for advance information about sales as well as for tips for surviving the experience – and maybe even enjoying it. But be aware that some of the best deals are available only in very limited quantities.
If crowds are not your style, shop online on Cyber Monday, the big sale day for online retailers on the Monday after Thanksgiving. You can check out the website CyberMonday.com for advance notice of sales or for updates about special deals on the day. Just remember that most employers take a very dim view of employees shopping online at work.
If you shop online, look for free shipping. Many e-retailers offer free shipping during the holidays. Sometimes you have to order a certain dollar amount, but often that dollar amount is very low. And some retailers allow you to sign up for a premium service that includes free shipping. Depending on how much you order online, the service could save you money, especially if you cancel it once the holidays are over.
Finally, make gifts yourself. Homemade gifts are often the least expensive – and the most meaningful. Bake cookies for your favorite aunt, or put together a photo album for your parents or grandparents. Tell your elderly neighbor that you will shovel his walk or take her to the grocery store. Knit a scarf or crochet a baby blanket.
After all, the most important thing is not how much a gift costs; it’s how much you care.