By Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach®
According to the National Retail Federation, the average American plans to spend more than $1,000 during the current holiday season. That’s a 4.1% increase over last year’s figures. Doling out all that cash can put a serious strain on your budget. From planning family dinners to finding those perfect gifts, the shopping season that began on Thanksgiving and runs until December 25 can seem financially overwhelming.
But take heart, shopper. You still have time to get a feel for the deals, plan for the traffic, and develop your budget. Here are some tips that can help:
#1 – Create a Shopping Plan and Holiday Budget
Before you create a financial plan, make a gift-giving list and check it twice. As best as you can, account for the friends, family, and coworkers for whom you have to buy gifts. Once you know, you can then begin to form a budget that includes the total amount you can spend for the season.
#2 – Research and Compare Pricing
Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, there will still be plenty of deals throughout the holiday season. Research your options and compare pricing across multiple retailers. Another excellent way to find deals is by reading user reviews, especially when you are considering expensive items such as game consoles or electronics.
#3 – Use Apps to Find the Best Deal
Once you have an idea of quality and pricing, you can then begin to scope out deals and savings. One of the best ways to do this is by using technology. There are a variety of apps and technological solutions for shoppers searching for a deal. For holiday shopping, some of the best to look into are The Amazon App, Coupon Sherpa, Honey and RetailMeNot. Each one offers easy ways to save money on-the-go as you complete your holiday shopping.
Download apps from legitimate app stores only, avoid online shopping on public Wi-Fi networks, be thoughtful about granting app permissions and never use the same password across multiple accounts or apps. To learn how to safe while shopping online read the FTC’s security tips.
Tip #4 – Pass on Store Credit Cards and Payment Financing Offers
It may be tempting to pad your budget by opening a credit card at your favorite store or taking advantage of a no financing offer. However, if you’re trying to stick to a budget, these offers may end up hurting you in the long-run. Store credit cards can give you a false sense of security and cause you to spend more than you intended. Special payment financing offers can do the same while also forcing you to still deal with a purchase six months later. Your budget should immediately account for all expenses in the present without having to depend on credit cards for financing. Due to interest, these offers will cause you to spend more over the long-run.
#5 – Use Cash When Possible
Using cash can also be useful in preventing overspending. Taking out a specific amount of money allows you to put limitations on what you are buying. In contrast, credit cards can bring an almost limitless spending option that can make it more likely to go over your allocated amount. This situation can get a bit tricky when purchasing items online, but having the budget in view can help you stay on track. So, whenever possible, use cash. It will remind you of your total spending limits.
The holiday season is a period of time that can easily put your financial goals in jeopardy. Even though the holidays are in full swing, you still have to take care of monthly bills, save, and buy groceries. This makes having a financial strategy crucial as you go into the holiday shopping season. Following the steps above can help you to start the holiday shopping period on the right foot.
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