Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How to Avoid Spending $923.76 on Holiday Gifts

This guest piece about holiday spending is excellent, including the tip about earning more during the year-end holiday rush:

"The average consumer plans to spend $923.36 this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Challenging economic conditions and a bleak
housing market will cause many consumers to be more conservative with their
holiday spending, but many others will find themselves struggling to pay holiday
debt well into spring and beyond.


“Nothing takes the joy out of the season faster than overwhelming debt,” said Jessica Cecere, president of Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

“Plan carefully, shop wisely, and don’t lose sight of what is truly important during the holidays—quality time with family and friends.”


Extra Income. Increasing your income during the holiday season is a great way to avoid accumulating debt that you may spend months paying off. According to the NRF, almost 600,000 seasonal jobs will be available in November and December. Working a few evenings a week or weekends can provide the additional money you will need to buy gifts for family and friends without overextending yourself or your
budget.


CCCS offers other tips to help consumers this holiday season:


Budget before you shop Deciding what you can spend before you hit the
mall can save you in the long run, especially if you plan to make purchases with
cash instead of credit. Along with gifts, be sure to include decorations,
wrapping and cards, and entertainment when developing your holiday budget. If
you will be traveling this holiday season, don’t forget to include the cost of
travel, gasoline, airfare, hotel stays, meals and entertainment.

Make a list and check it twice Make a list of all the people you want to buy gifts for and note the amount you would like to spend on each person, making sure that your total does not exceed the spending limit you established. If it does, review and
revise the list until you are within your budget. If you track your purchases as
you make them, you might find you save money on some gifts and have more to
allocate to others on your list.

Do your homework and shop around Retailers already have a full array of holiday items on display, and many have already started offering discounts to encourage consumers to buy. By getting an early start on your holiday shopping, you can take advantage of sales on seasonal items and look for the best prices on items you know you want to buy. In addition to weekly sales papers, use online comparison shopping sites to find the best prices. Sites such as www.pricegrabber.com, www.bizrate.com, and www.mysimon.com compare the prices of multiple retailers on the same item.

You can then order items online or purchase them locally. Before you buy, search for discounts— www.couponcabin.com is a great resource for coupon codes that can save you shipping charges or a percentage off your total purchase. Have an expired coupon for a favorite retailer? Many will honor coupons long past the expiration date—be sure to ask. Don’t rule out non-traditional retailers—thrift stores, discount stores, consignment shops, and specialty stores might have just what you’re looking for at a much lower price.

Use credit wisely—or not at all Avoid using credit cards to make holiday purchases, especially if you are not able to pay the balance in full at the end of the month. Spending more than you have budgeted is much more likely if you are using credit cards, especially if you’re rushed for time and feeling the stress of holiday shopping. Leaving your credit cards at home will help ensure that you will stick to your budget, even if it means spending a little more time looking for the right gift.

If you do use credit cards for holiday shopping, keep a running tally of what you have spent and deduct it from your checking account balance. Incorporating these purchases into your budget will help ensure you don’t overspend.

Give back to others If money is extremely tight, you may want to give back to others, which is truly what the holidays are all about. You and your family may want to volunteer at a food bank, church, shelter or hospital instead of worrying about purchasing gifts.


Make your own gifts For families with relatives who live out of town, children can make a scrapbook that includes test paper, pictures of their favorite activity, a drawing or painting that they made just for the relative. And the scrapbook can contain an area to place little notes by the picture describing the event or the occasion. In addition, children can make a personal card for their grandparents/or relatives instead of purchasing a card. These sentimental gifts mean so much more than purchasing a bathrobe or something like that." -- CCCS

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3 comments:

Leah Ingram said...

Another shopping option to consider is using up any gift cards that you may still have lying around from the last holiday season. See my post on gift card organization here:

http://suddenlyfrugal.blogspot.com/2007/06/dont-look-gift-card-in-mouth.html

Or, get free giftcards that you can use for your shopping. For example, with my Discover card and my cash back bonus, I'm getting a $45 Kohl's gift card, which I just know will come in handy when buying my 10- and 12-year-old daughters' presents. (I don't work for either Discover or Kohl's.)

Hey, this topic is so timely and terrific, I might just blog about it, too!

The Saving Freak said...

My wife and I have large families so all the siblings and spouses draw names on both sides. So instead of buying 11 gifts we buy 2. Although we spend more money on those two gifts it is no where near the amount we would spend on 11 individual gifts.

Tom said...

This post hit it on the head. Make a list and don't go over your budget. I think so many people just shop and shop and throw it on their credit card. They get the bill in January and don't realize how much they've spent!