Well it’s that time of year again. The time where carolers are caroling, chestnuts are roasting and everyone is merry and bright. Oh and of course that time of year where your wallet slowly drains of all life and by December 25th those little cartoon moths that you though weren’t real, are actually flying out of it. Yes, the holidays are here and your credit cards are quaking in fear. But fear not, here are a few tips to help you through the holiday madness.
Budget, Budget, Budget
This may be the biggest shopping tip of all. When you have a large list it’s very easy to forget what you have bought, get carried away and overspend. What works for me is to first allocate a total amount of money you can afford to spend on gifts. Then write down the list of people that you need to buy gifts for and break down that allocated amount to the people on the list. Write down the amount next to the person’s name and carry the list with you. Before you buy something consult the list to make sure it’s within your self-given budget for that person. After you purchase the item subtract the cost from the person’s allocated amount. This way you’ll always have and running list and won’t overspend.
Take advantage of black Friday
This one is a no brainer. If you’re not afraid of big crowds and heavy traffic, the day after thanksgiving can save you a bundle. My advice is to plan ahead though. Grab a newspaper on the Sunday prior and the paper on Thanksgiving and go through the ads. Don’t be fooled by the cheap big-ticket items though. That 42″ plasma TV for $200 will probably not be there when you arrive. Stores generally only carry one or two of these high-end items and they will generally be sold to the crazy people who camp out in front of the store on Thanksgiving night. You can still get great deals on high quantity items like flash drives, DVD’s, small appliances and clothing without having to get up at 3AM.
Online retailers have jumped on the black Friday bandwagon and created their own special shopping day for the holidays called cyber Monday. It occurs the Monday following Thanksgiving and like black Friday there are deep discounted items and many offer free shipping. The best part is that you can compare prices on the same product across many different retailers all from the convenience of your own home. Even online retailers though have limit quantities of certain items so make sure when you order that the item is actually in stock because they will let you order an item even if they are sold out.
Shop the clearance section
Most of the big chain stores will have a clearance section somewhere hidden in each department. You can often find great deals on things here. From my experience Target offers the best clearance sections with the biggest discount on discontinued items. They also seem to have a high product turnover rate. Old Navy and JC Penney are also great places to shop the clearance section. In my opinion Walmart and Kmart are not the greatest at getting rid of discontinued products and put a very minimum discount on clearance items.
Avoid top of the line
While having the latest iPod is certainly cool, there are dozens of other types of mp3 player that have all the same basic functions for a fraction of the cost. This holds true for all kinds of products from electronics to small appliances to clothing. Lots of retail stores will stock a cheaper version of a product in close proximity to the more expensive alternative, just have a look around.
A simple way to stay in budget and finish all you shopping in one fell swoop is to get gift cards. Many of the major drug store chains contain a display that carries dozens of gift cards from a large variety of retailers and online retailers. If you don’t mind people knowing exactly what you spent on them this is an excellent way to go and can keep you on budget.
Holiday shopping doesn’t have to break the bank. It just takes a little research and planning. Following these tips can help save you on all your holiday shopping. Make this the year you avoid buyers remorse and a lot of crying in January when the credit card bills roll in.