This week marked the official start of Fall – my favorite season! But just like dear old summer, you can bet your bottom dollar that autumn will be gone in a flash. Before you know it, the holiday shopping season will be upon us. And if your local retailers are anything like mine, you’ve had Halloween decorations on sale alongside the back to school stuff.
So you can also bet your bottom dollar that any day now we’re all going to be bombarded with ads and commercials beckoning us to buy all the latest toys and gadgets in time for Christmas. Well, I’m here to help you have a fabulous holiday shopping experience -and still be able to hold on to that bottom dollar! Here at my top five tips for a fab and frugal holiday season.
Have a “rainy day” account specifically for the holidays.
Come up with a reasonable budget of how much you can spend responsibly and then start a savings plan. I’m sure you already have a savings account for emergencies and major purchases that you aim to put 10% of your income into, right? (RIGHT?!) Well, do the same for the holidays. Take your total budget, divide it by the number of weeks remaining until you need to be done with all of your shopping and set that much money aside each week. This way, you’re less likely to overspend and you won’t be blindsided by expenses.
Make a list, and check it twice.
When you’re preparing your budget, it will be helpful to have a list of the items you will likely be buying: gifts, décor, even travel expenses. Chief among these things will probably be your gift list. Give some thought ahead of time to who should really be on your list, and what reasonably priced gift they would be sure to appreciate. Let this list be your guide and try to not to stray from it. A well thought out list will help curb costly impulse spending which increases significantly during the holiday season.
Shop and research online.
Nowadays, some of the best sales can be found online. You can also usually find in-store prices on a store’s website as well. Take advantage of the internet as your tool to do some comparative shopping before you hit the stores, or before you check-out online. Online shopping is especially advantageous if you can get free shipping – which is usually not too hard to come by during sale season. And don’t forget Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving. It’s your online alternative to dealing with the Black Friday crazies crowd. There are sure to be an abundance of online sales just in time for us to return to work and sit in front of a computer all day!
Buy things on sale whenever you see them.
Don’t wait until the last minute to begin your holiday shopping. Last minute shopping can cause you to panic and make irresponsible purchases that are expensive and impulsive. As soon as you have your list prepared, don’t hesitate to pick up well-priced items as you see them – no matter how early it seems. Some of the best sales take place way before the holidays and won’t even be holiday specials at all. And don’t worry if you don’t yet have all the money in your holiday savings account – if you have the money now, make the purchase and be sure to pay yourself back.
The holidays have become extremely commercial – we know it, we live with it. But the truth still remains that some of the best gifts come straight from the heart. If you are creatively inclined, put those creative skills to use. Perhaps you can knit something for someone special, create a unique piece of artwork or jewelry, or take some stunning personal photographs. And even if you’re not especially creatively talented, you can still give some cute homemade gifts. Consider giving some homemade cookies for your Secret Santa at the work wrapped in colorful cellophane and ribbon, or brownies in a decorative tin for your mailman.
What’s your #1 favorite way to save money during the holidays?