Do's & Don'ts of Holiday Shopping
12/10/2013 09:50AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier
Thanks to sales featuring heavily discounted items, millions of people wait to start their holiday shopping until the season hits full swing. But in spite of such bargains, overextending budgets during the holiday season is too tempting for many shoppers to resist. However, shoppers need not risk financial peril if they shop smartly and heed some do’s and don’ts of holiday shopping.
• Do set a budget. Establish what you can afford to spend on gifts and other seasonal trimmings early on. The National Retail Federation estimates that the average consumer will spend around $700 during the holiday season. But not every person needs to be a big spender. The “buy now, pay later” mentality that credit cards offer lands many shoppers in trouble, a sticky situation many only notice once the first bill comes due. If you cannot afford to pay your entire credit card balance off once the bill arrives, you face steep interest charges that can quickly add up. Instead, pick a set spending limit and keep to it no matter how tempting it may seem to overspend with a credit card.
• Don’t be fooled by false sales. Retailers understand that a good advertised deal lures shoppers into their stores. As a result, some retailers mark up the cost of certain items in order to slash the prices for holiday sales. Even if you are saving the assumed 50 to 60 percent, the final cost of the item still may be higher than normal. Comparison shop and do your research so you don’t fall victim to clever pricing.
• Do schedule time for shopping. Hectic schedules sometimes result in last-minute shopping that leads to impulse purchases. Schedule some distraction-free time for your holiday shopping so you’re less likely to rush into purchases before thinking them through.
• Don’t double buy. Some shoppers use the holidays as an excuse to buy more for themselves than the people on their lists. While it’s tempting to treat yourself during the holiday season, this is a great and quick way to deplete your budget. If you plan on using holiday deals to supplement your own wardrobe or household needs, reduce your spending the rest of the year and save money for year-end purchases.
• Do collect coupons and look for purchasing incentives. Comparison shopping not only helps you get the best price, but also it can shed light on coupons, shipping discounts and other incentives that lower the overall cost of products. Search online for Web sites that publish coupons and codes for online discounts, including free shipping. Join a store’s marketing list and receive emails with deals sent directly to your inbox.
• Don’t be afraid to delay some purchases if need be. If hosting a post-holiday gathering where gifts will be exchanged, it’s perfectly acceptable to delay buying those gifts until after Christmas, when many items can be found at even lower prices. Many stores reduce prices on merchandise starting December 26, so you can wait until after the holidays to shop for items that will be exchanged with distant friends and relatives. This enables you to save more money and use any received gift cards toward shopping.
• Do keep a level head. Some people forget the true meaning of the season is spending time with loved ones. Getting swept away by shopping and worrying about deadlines can make the season less enjoyable. Don’t allow the stress of holiday shopping to compromise an otherwise joyous time of year.
Maximize Time Spent On Holiday Shopping
The holiday season encompasses several weeks of frenetic activity, as men and women look to juggle abnormally busy social schedules with holiday shopping. While you might not be able to add hours to the day, there are certain measures anyone can take to make the hustle and bustle of the holiday season more efficient.
Shopping swallows up a significant amount of time during the holiday season. According to the latest Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll, the average person will spend 15 hours shopping for presents. Women tend to spend twice as long as men in stores and online, with women logging 20 hours of holiday shopping compared to the 10 hours the average male spends shopping for holiday gifts. Making the most of holiday shopping trips can free up moments and reduce overall stress during the holidays.
Condense Your Gift List
How much time you spend on holiday shopping depends largely on the number of people on your gift list. Shortening that list can save time and money. Distant friends may no longer need to feel obligated to buy presents for one another. Opting to do a “Secret Santa” or another grab-bag style gift exchange can reduce the number of gifts you need to buy, saving time along the way.
Keep a spreadsheet of your shopping list stored on your computer or smartphone so it can be easily modified year-to-year.
Create A Shopping Strategy
Millions of shoppers flock to stores on Black Friday to take advantage of doorbuster deals, and some even get all of their holiday shopping finished on this one afternoon. Others prefer to divide and conquer over a few weeks. Decide how you would like to economize your shopping so you won’t be traveling from store to store wasting precious time.
Organize your shopping list into certain categories. Then match up those categories according to the stores that cater to these items. For example, if your list mentions bedding for a new college student’s dorm room, curtains for an aunt and a set of beach towels for a friend who will be doing some post-holiday travel, group these purchases together and head to a bed-and-bath store. Such a plan in place can greatly cut down on your time spent shopping.
Consumer Reports says shoppers expect to wait in store check-out lines for an average of 3.5 to 4 hours this holiday season. Avoiding such situations can save you a significant amount of time, so shop during off-peak hours when you won’t be elbow-to-elbow with fellow shoppers.
Take advantage of stores’ extended hours and shop later in the evening, when parents and their children will likely be preparing for bed and not waiting in line. Some retailers entice shoppers with early bird specials and open their doors very early, so shoppers looking to save time can make an effort to be the first person at the door when the store opens.
Split Up The Shopping
Spouses, family members and even friends can pool their shopping time and help others by tackling some of their purchases. Dividing the work shortens the time spent in stores, and a third party may have a keen eye to a deal or a unique gift when he or she is emotionally removed from the purchase.
The average person finds time is of the essence during the holiday season. Prioritizing and economizing shopping is one way to make the season less hectic.
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