The holidays are here again. It’s that time of year when spending can easily get out of control. Gifts, gift wrap, greeting cards, household decorations, outfits for holiday photos and parties, and food shopping for holiday meals are at the top of everyone’s lists.
Unfortunately after Santa has arrived and New Year’s has been rung in, many of us are faced with credit card debt and a pile of bills. Here are a few ways to save during the holidays and start the New Year on the right foot.
- Planning ahead can save you in the end. Make a list of people, and then prioritize. This list will also be your gift shopping budget for the holidays. Note how much you are going to spend next to each person’s name. You can even share your holiday gift lists with family and friends online at KeepandShare.com. For budgeting tips, go to Mint.com and check out its easy budgeting tools. Now carry the list and budget with you on your shopping sprees, and stick to it!
- Focus on buying for close friends and family. Minimize the number of gifts for acquaintances and coworkers. Also consider buying one large gift that several people on your list can enjoy. Some people would rather get one great gift for the family than 10 little gifts. Groupon.com, with the slogan “collective buying power,” provides bulk discounts. You can sign up at Groupon.com for e-mail alerts of sales going on in your area, such as restaurant or beauty salon discounts, which make ideal gifts to share with family or friends.
- Pick a name out of a hat. Whether you come from a large or small family, buying for everyone adds up quickly. It’s been called Secret Santa, Grab Bag or Pollyanna. But the concept is all the same. You only have to buy a gift for one person. Set a limit on how much you are allowed to spend so everyone is on an even playing field.
- Online coupons are great. Consumers can simply point and click to find online coupons for the product of their choice. Most of these coupon sites provide a coupon code to be used on a retail store’s website. During the online checkout, type the code under the “promo” or “coupon code” heading to receive the discount. On most of these websites, you can register to receive daily or weekly E-mails of coupon specials. Sites like Coupon.com, SmartSource.com, and CouponMom.com are popular for consumers looking for a bargain.
- Comparison shop on line. Left with excess inventory last year, retailers are going to sell fewer items in stores this holiday season. As a result, more people are going to go online for research, price comparison, and convenient shopping. One way to do that is through sites like ComparisonShopping.com, which aggregates product search results from the 10 leading websites for price-comparison shopping, including BizRate, PriceGrabber, NexTag, and Shopzilla. These sites have vendor prices, reviews of vendors and items, and product descriptions. Also, visit FreeShipping.org, which provides free shipping coupon codes for more than 1,710 stores. Other websites have threshold free shipping, where shipping doesn’t cost anything after a minimum purchase; Amazon.com, for example, provides free shipping for members whose purchases are over $25.
- Homemade gifts, cards, and wrapping paper. Get crafty. Homemade gifts and cards are not only affordable but also fun projects for you and your friends or family to do together. Clip craft stores’ weekly coupons, or visit cheap art supply websites, such as CheapJoes.com, to save on supplies. Instead of buying expensive cards and wrapping paper, make them with colored paper and art supplies. You can put your kids to work with craft ideas from KidsCraftWeekly.com. “If you aren’t so artsy, buy homemade artwork, jewelry, and clothing at Etsy.com, as well as unique art supplies,” says Michelle Madhok, an online shopping expert and founder of shopping websites SheFinds.com and MomFinds.com. If you’re a baker, recipe sites like Epicurious.com have a plethora of seasonal recipes from cookbooks, chefs, and home cooks. Holiday-themed treats are tasty and inexpensive gifts for your friends and family members with a sweet tooth.
- Buy gifts that save money. You don’t have to be buying for the “Do It Yourselfer” in the family or even the frugal family member. Give gifts that people wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves. Energy saving lightbulbs, a showerhead that saves water, or a programmable thermostat makes a great gift or stocking stuffer. They’ll be thanking you every month when they see the savings on their utility bill.
- Re-gifting. Refer to re-gifting as “gift recycling”. It is easy not only on the wallet but also on the environment, as you are reusing items rather than throwing them away. Avoid the dreaded fruitcake this year, and go for gifts, preferably less personal and unused, such as gift cards, candles, picture frames, and homeware items.
- Budget for yourself. Now after all of your generosity, don’t forget to reward yourself. Along with your gift list, budget how much you’d like to spend for yourself. It’s best to decide what you’d like early on, so you can spend time looking for it at the lowest price. If you have a specific gift in mind, you can go to sites like ShopStyle.com, for clothing and fashion accessories, or PriceSpider.com, for electronics, and select items you like. Then the website will send you E-mail alerts whenever your selected item goes on sale.
- Happy shopping. Remember to have fun. Shopping for gifts shouldn’t be a dreaded chore. Give yourself plenty of time. Enjoy the crowds and everything that comes along with it. It only comes around once a year.
HAVE A SAFE & PROSPEROUS HOLIDAY SEASON & A HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR!