Is it me, or does it seem as though we just took down our holiday decorations? Ready or not, it is definitely that time of year again when we have to begin thinking about shopping for our family, friends, and co-workers.
The holiday season brings a feeling of happiness, because we get to spend quality time with our loved ones.
It also a time that makes us feel stressed out having to squeeze in gift shopping into our busy schedules.
If you find yourself stressed every year, I encourage you to begin thinking about how to approach your shopping techniques now instead of waiting to the last minute.
I see shoppers making the following same mistakes year after the year:
- Standing In The Long Lines
- Fighting The Crowds
- Spending More Than They Budgeted For
- Waiting Until The Absolute Last Minute To Shop
- Being The First In Line On "Black Friday"
Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving which traditionally marks the start of the holiday shopping season and ultimately getting trampled over as sometimes people fight over merchandise to get discounts.
I’d like to take the Smarter Shopper Holiday Pledge…
I, (say your name), pledge to adhere to the ten holiday shopping tips outlined below. I realize that by not doing so, I may suffer the consequences of holiday shopper's remorse which include but are not limited to: loss of cash reserves, higher credit card debt, and near insanity from overexposure to large crowds, outrageous lines, and low product inventory.
1)) Use Cash
Buying your gifts with cash naturally forces you to stay within the budget. Try not to use your debit card, because you're easily able to justify going over on your purchases, especially if there's money available in your checking account.
Set limits, use physical cash, and when it’s gone, there's no more gift buying.
Now, this is going to take some self-control and I struggle with it myself during the holiday season, for instance, if you've got $100 for gifts, then don't push the budget and spend $101.
No matter how wrapped up you get into the Christmas lights, music, and other smiling holiday shoppers carrying their large shopping bags, stay within your budget, and cash can effectively help you do that!
2)) Keep Track Of Your Credit Card Spending
Ok, if you absolutely must use a credit card, I highly suggest you use the one with the lowest interest rate, and know how you are going to pay off the balance in advance.
Carrying balances obviously costs more than the items themselves. So, the bargains you get during the holidays will no longer be bargains 90 to 120 days later.
Have a plan to pay off your holiday purchases.
Additionally, and just as important, know how much you are spending on those credit cards.
You still need to set limits.
3)) Be Patient
There's nothing that will test your patience like waiting in a long checkout line and have to endure price check after price check or a declined credit card holder arguing with the cashier, or even a shift change just as you approach the register.
However, we all know these things happen. Should you need a small book or magazine to bring along with you, do so.
Heck, you could even watch a movie on your smartphone as you wait, and before you know it, you’ll have reached the cashier.
If leaving the kids at home is an option because they'll add additional stress to your trip, do so.
Maybe just taking a deep breath will help.
You could imagine the look of surprise and excitement of the person after they’ve opened your gift. That could change your mood almost instantly.
So, just keep calm and remain patient.
4)) Shop Early In the Season and Get It Out Of The Way
I've never understood why people wait until the very last minute to do their holiday shopping when they know it drives them completely nuts.
This is where that unnecessary stress I mentioned earlier comes in.
If you’re able to, start your holiday shopping now.
The malls and retail stores aren't overcrowded yet.
No one else is really thinking about holiday shopping for now. You could be the first one.
Create your Holiday Shopping List, prioritize it, and begin your gift purchasing.
If you do, you’ll end up crossing off all the items on your list and avoid the madness of the holiday shopping season.
5)) Give Less Expensive but Creative Gifts Instead
Now, I'm not necessarily suggesting arts and crafts here, unless of course that's what you want to do.
But, all of us are not creative minds. However, for example, if you think of one gift that would work for an entire family, you'll definitely save money.
For example; if the family you plan to purchase gifts for loves old movies.
A great creative gift basket consisting of a few old movies, popcorn and candy, and maybe a blanket would definitely be less expensive than trying to purchase individual gifts.
Think outside the box to save money!
6)) Have a Game Plan
In order to get those must-have or those hard-to-find popular items, you have to create a game plan.
That game plan has to take in consideration the availability of the items, the budget, and when you can go get the items.
Don't ever leave your house without a game plan outlining where you're going, what you're going to purchase, how much you are going to purchase it for, and what your alternate gift selections are.
Yes, you should at least have in mind what the alternate gift item will be, should you not be able to find the gift or if you are on the losing end of an in-store battle with another determined shopper.
7)) Shop Safely
The holiday season brings out not only the shoppers, but it also attracts the predators that prey on those who aren’t paying attention to their surroundings.
Watch your personal belongings at all times including handbags, purchases, and your children.
Places to Pay Particular Attention:
- At the cash register where you can easily be distracted
- Outside in the parking lot
- Waiting on public transportation
Never get so comfortable that you feel a false sense of security, no matter how many other shoppers are around.
You just never know when a team of purse-snatchers may be on the lookout for their next victim…
Or perhaps a robber lurking in the dark waiting to hold you up at gunpoint.
Experiencing theft of any kind can totally ruin your day.
Tip: When possible, go shopping with one or more adults during the daytime, because robbers usually target people that are alone.
So, be a safe shopper.
8)) Get Enough Rest
There's nothing like going out during the holiday shopping season and running out of steam.
An important part of your shopping game plan should be to get plenty of rest the night before.
Get a great start in the morning with a healthy breakfast and wear comfortable shoes. You should be all set to go.
These types of shopping trips can sometimes go all day and night, especially if you're like the folks who likes to literally shop until the stores close down, grabbing that last bargain on the rack as the last call announcement goes out over the intercom.
Be prepared and get some rest to prevent exhaustion.
9)) Do Not Forget the Bargains at the Outlet Malls
Take a trip to a few outlet malls if you’re looking for a change in scenery from the traditional mall setting. People often overlook the feasibility of outlet malls. There are bargains on upscale merchandise from big fashion designers such as Kate Spade, Giorgio Armani, Coach, and etc.
Why pay full-price, when you can save a small fortune?
10)) Attempt To Avoid the Crowds At All Costs
Shopping earlier during the day or first thing Saturday morning can help you avoid some of the crowds during the week and those late risers on Saturday or Sunday.
The early bird gets the worm!
Or if you like, shop later in the evening, most stores will have extended holiday hours. Most people like to be at home by this time.
This can work in your favor. There are fewer crowds in the evening. But remember to be safe.
Holiday shopping doesn’t have to be this big stressful event if you properly plan and make your purchases earlier in the year.
There’s absolutely no reason to stand in long lines and fight over merchandise.
If you’re the type of person who enjoys purchasing your gifts physically at the retail stores because you enjoy the shopping experience, then apply the 10 Holiday Shopping Tips To Enhance Your Experience.
You, could of course, just do of your shopping online, but then that takes all of the "fun" out of the whole holiday shopping experience if you prefer in-person buying.
Be safe and have fun shopping!