The holidays are right around the corner and that means hot chocolate, festive decorations, Christmas music, and lots and lots of shopping. All of that shopping can really wear on your patience and your wallet. Here are some tips to help you make it through the most expensive time of year:
1. Make a List.
And check it twice. Know what you have to buy, and how much it will cost you before you head out to the mall. If you make a list and stick to it, you will be less likely to buy things you don’t need. That way, you’ll be able to avoid going over budget.
2. Compare Prices.
Before you shop compare prices online or in the newspaper circulars. Make sure you’re getting what you need for the lowest possible price. And if you’re out shopping and you spot something you weren’t planning on buying, don’t just buy it. As we’ve mentioned in the past, there are a few ways to make sure you’re always paying the lowest price and avoiding common spending pitfalls.
3. Plan Ahead.
Dedicate a savings sub-account for holiday spending. Even if you only have a few dollars to spare each paycheck, it will still be a benefit when the holiday season comes around. For example, if you get paid biweekly, and put $10 aside from each paycheck, you’ll have earned stashed $260 dollars in a year. That’s enough for an iPod touch or ten Monster High Dolls! And if you make it $20 a paycheck, you’ll have $520. That’s enough for the new Xbox One game console!
4. Prepare Your Plastic.
To prevent fraud, all credit and debit cards have a limit of how much money you can spend, as well as how many transactions you can make within a 24 hour period. Most people don’t come close to that limit on a normal day, but if you are planning a lot of purchases in one day, you’ll want to make sure your cards are ready to back you up. Call your financial institution to find out your limits so that you can plan accordingly. Also make sure to let your financial institution know whenever you are going shopping out of town or just making an uncharacteristic purchase so that your account is not flagged for fraud.
5. Use Caution When Shopping Online.
Shopping online is great way to avoid holiday crowds, but be cautious before entering your account information online. Don’t order through any website that does not take you to a secure payment page. You can tell if it is secure because there will be a lock symbol at the top of the page and the website address will start with “https.”
6. Keep Your Receipts.
Most stores will honor a price change within 30 days of a purchase, so if that hot item goes on sale a week after you bought it, you can take back the receipt and get a price adjustment. Continue to hold on to your receipts until after the holiday too. Stores will often give you store credit for items without a receipt, but only at the lowest sale price the item was over the season. If you paid full-price, you’ll want full price back! Check the back of your individual receipts for specific information about each store’s return policy.
7. Cut Back on Spending, Not Giving.
Sometimes the holidays become less about fun and family time, and more about dollars signs. Consider doing something different this year. Encourage your children to make homemade gifts. These are something they will enjoy making and you can cherish for years to come. Or for families with a lot of older kids and adults, suggest a name exchange. That way everyone gets something nice, but no one has to buy for everyone.
Here’s hoping you have a wonderful holiday season!