Tis the season for holiday shopping! We’re not sure if you’ve noticed on our site this week, but the holidays will be a pretty big topic for the next few weeks. As such we wanted to share some tips and tricks for preparing yourself for the most expensive part of the holiday – the gifts for your family, extended family, and friends. Now of course, you could win all your gifts this season by entering some awesome giveaways such as our Win It Before You Can Buy It giveaway where we and six other bloggers are giving away over $3,000 in gifts (I think that’s called a shameless plug) but you know that it might not cover all your gift needs this season. 🙂
We wanted to share with you three articles on how to make this season a bit easier on you and your pocket book. In case you want a sneak peek, I have included the three articles below. We will update them with links when the following articles are posted:
- Preparing Yourself to Help Make Your Holiday Shopping Less Painful
- Research, Plan, and More Research!
- How to Maximize Your Holiday Shopping Either at the Store or Online
Make Your budget
The first place we always believe you need to start whether its holiday shopping, trying to become debt free, planning a vacation or any other financial planning is to make your budget. Yes, it might be easy to say “Oh yeah, but we already knew that” but I can tell you from personal experience that not doing so can be very costly. When you are out and about and you see all the amazing sales (well, at least some of them are amazing!) and want to buy the world for your loved ones, it can be difficult to keep yourself from not spending so much more than you originally intended.
So how do you do this? We always believe the easiest and best way to do this is by sitting down as a family and discussing it. Obviously the amount you specify in your budget will be different depending upon your family and your overall financial goals. But the key must be open communication between all family members and full commitment as a family to reach those goals – we really believe this is one of those financial secrets that a family must learn prior to meeting any of your desired financial goals. But the how to develop that holiday budget leads right into the next step.
Make a Detailed Gift List
Make a detailed gift list (which rolls right up into your total holiday budget). Find a piece of paper or your favorite spreadsheet to develop this detailed list. The point is to keep it simple at this step. We have found that the more complicated your first attempt is that the more likely you are not to get up the energy to create it. Write down all the names of family and friends you need to buy for. Then, decide how much you would like to spend on each of those people. Of course, it might be difficult at first to put a price tag on each person but this really does help you as you plan and prepare for purchasing your gifts for this season.
What you are going to do is keep that list updated all season. As soon as you find that amazing gift that you want to buy, write down what you purchased, how much you spent, and do the math to find out how much you have left.
This really does help you keep track of your budget. How?
- When you have a target budget to reach for that person, it causes you to put even that much more thought on how to maximize your gifts. It helps you to stretch that amount just a little bit more as well.
- This will help you when you are ready to wrap those gifts. If you remember Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, he pulled out gifts in his attic that he must have stuck there years ago! We had this experience just a couple of months ago when we were cleaning the top of one of our cabinets – we found a book that we had purchased for one of our daughters. Keeping that detailed list will keep you from losing those gifts – well, at least let you know that the gift is lost – finding it is up to you.
- You will make sure to not forget what you have already bought for that special someone. A few years ago we were being sooo thrifty. We started buying in July and getting all the deals. On Christmas Eve when it was time to finish wrapping we looked at each other and knew we had a huge problem. We bought so many items at such a great price that the total was much higher than we anticipated. We had forgot about many of the gifts we had bought earlier!
But another important question is when to keep this budget. Although it might be a bit late to say this, our answer is to start as soon as the holiday season is over. Seriously. If you already know that next year you’ll be purchasing gifts for your family, extended family, and a few friends you can definitely make a budget and start preparing for the whole year. This allows you to set aside a set amount every paycheck. In addition, when you see that special item that you know Uncle Bill would love, you can buy it as you probably already have that amount saved up in your account. The key to this however is again, writing down and keep that detailed gift list updated. But please remember that if you didn’t start your budget a year ago – start now! Any time that you have redeemed to start saving and preparing is better than no time at all. Just make sure to make your goal to start earlier every year.
Make a List of Practical Items
Finally, although this may not seem to make much sense at first, a great way to make your holiday shopping less painful is to make note of practical items you really need to replace. How does this help you keep your holiday budget? Well, it really doesn’t. This is more on how to successfully meet your overall budget. Very often on days such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday, many items such as vacuums, blenders, printers, hard drives, etc. will be marked down for cheap to help draw you to their store – not just the top 100 gifts on sale. Although you might not give these items away for gifts, watching the prices on those items might help you meet your overall budget and purchase those items that you need anyway. We’ll be talking about this next time, but keeping your eyes out for Deal of the Day from both online and retail shopping could help you find that toaster you’ve been needing in a sale that would be difficult to get at another time.
Remember no matter how you do it that being intentional is the way to plan for this holiday season. Knowing which dollar is going to go where and making sure it goes there is a sure way to meet your budget. And whether you’re budget is small or large you just might find this process to be a bit more fun as well. Sleuthing for the deals because you have a limited amount to spend can be fun and definitely much more fun than waking up at the end of the year to make your New Years resolution to pay off your debt from all your holiday spending!
Be watching next week as we help provide ideas on how to research and prepare for all your holiday shopping. In addition, we will be sharing another thrifty holiday tip that’s not on this list this week – how to become a minimalist this season.
* Thanks to Investopedia for the awesome graphic on keeping a tight rein of your budget this holiday season