Reality check: holiday shopping often has the potential to be overwhelming, stressful, and plain awful. You have to brave overpriced items, your favorite gifts going out of stock, and the shocking credit card bill at the end of the harrowing adventure. But shopping experiences don’t always have to be that way. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite tips and tricks for you to shop smarter and have a much happier holiday experience.
1. Make a Budget and Stick to It
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could shower our friends and family with unlimited, expensive gifts? The truth is that the majority of us have a limited amount of money. One of the biggest stressors of holiday shopping is overspending, so be sure to create a budget before you hit the stores. First, figure out the total you can afford to spend on gifts. Then, make a list of people you’d like to allocate portions of your budget to, that way you won’t subject yourself to last-minute splurge purchases. If you’re planning to DIY gifts, be sure to factor the cost of materials into your budget.
Take a look at our budgeting article to see what works for you.
2. Support Companies that Give Back
Check people off your list- and do some good? Sign us up! By buying from companies that give a portion of their profits to important causes, you can benefit more than just your family and friends.
Another great way to make a difference is to choose a charity based on a friend or family member’s passions and make a donation in his or her name.
3. Shop Early
Keeping your eyes open for holiday presents year-round not only prevents you from having to pay for all your gifts within a few weeks but also adds a thrill to the hunt. Shopping early is a good idea for online purchases as you’ll be able to take advantage of sales events when gifts are discounted and will also ensure presents have plenty of time to arrive.
4. Expand Your Gift List
Whether it’s your mail carrier who’s delivered package after package, a teacher who’s done their best to adjust to the challenges of distance learning, or a neighbor who’s been extra helpful, think about the people in your community who have made a difference this year and, if you can, add them to your gift list to thank them. Handmade cards, baked goods, or gift baskets are all great ways to show your appreciation.
5. Save Gas (and Time) By Shopping Online
Avoid crowded shopping centers altogether by doing the bulk of your shopping online. Just make sure to take into account mailing costs and order far enough ahead of time so that you don’t have to pay for expensive overnight shipping.
6. Take Advantage of Free Shipping
December 14th is Free Shipping Day when hundreds of retailers provide free shipping on orders guaranteed to arrive by Christmas Eve. It’s especially worth waiting for if you have your eye on gifts from online shops that usually add shipping costs. Find stores that participate in Free Shipping Day here.
7. Use Online Coupons
Avoid the hassle of clipping coupons and keeping track of expiration dates after you’ve hastily shoved them into your wallet. Groupon is a great site that helps you quickly search for and redeem deals for your gift items.
8. Avoid Credit Card Debt
Let’s talk about the obvious. One of the best ways to shop smart this season is to avoid charging more than you’ll be able to pay off. Don’t get talked into starting a credit card with a particular department store, either. It’s usually not worth it. Keep close track of the money you spend and know where your limits are.
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9. Don’t Be Afraid to Buy the Same Gift Twice
If you find a gift that you know several people on your list would enjoy, don’t be afraid to buy it in multiples. This cuts down on your shopping time, and if the store is offering any kind of “Buy one, get the second one at a discount” deal, that is even better.
10. Consider Buying Experiences
Instead of buying material goods that your family members aren’t that excited about, consider buying a day or weekend trip that you can share together. It can make more sense to invest money in creating a family memory that will last a lifetime than buying an item that will have a short life span.
11. Start a Secret Santa Tradition
For big families or groups of friends, consider starting a Secret Santa tradition where each person picks another name at random and focuses on their gift only (instead of everyone buying for everybody). This way, you put in more thought, money, and time into finding them something they’ll truly love. Plus, it’s fun to see the surprised looks when recipients try to guess who their mystery gift-giver is.
12. Final Thoughts
The holidays should be a time to relax and hang out with friends and family- don’t let yourself get stressed out by last-minute shopping expeditions. Just take a deep breath, do some planning in advance, and shop smart this season.