Monday, November 25, 2013

Saving Money on Holiday Gift Shopping

It's that time of year again! Oh yes, the time of year filled with cold weather, snow (maybe), family, friends, music, hot chocolate, stories, love, and laughter. Oh yeah, I can't forget to add PRESENTS. 

For those of us who wait last minute for holiday shopping or go on Black Friday, shopping can be an overwhelming, costly, and crowded experience! For those of you who are following me as my family reaches our goal of becoming debt-free (catch up HERE if you missed that), I thought I would share some tips we use each year:

1. Budget for gifts.

Be honest. How much can you really afford? Then, spend no more than that amount.

2. Plan ahead.

I budget for holiday gifts in both November and December (we don't start any earlier than that). Each month we have allocated $30 for gifts, including baby shower gifts, birthdays, weddings, graduations, and miscellaneous events. For November, we were able to budget $300. Total! I have only spent a fraction of that so far and the month is almost over.

3. Make a list.

Who are you buying gifts for? Write everyone down. This may seem silly, but with our families, who we buy gifts for generally depends on which side of the family we will be with that year. It is also easy to forget that a coworker or friend may stop by with a little something for you and you will want to reciprocate.

4. Keep a running gift list.

Have you ever noticed the one(s) closest to you are the hardest to buy gifts for?!?! That was my problem. Then, I would impulse buy items at the last second hoping they would love them because I spent buckoo bucks on them. It doesn't have to be that way.

I am guessing these individuals are the loved ones that you love dearly and spent as much time as possible with. Start a secret list (I have a hidden Excel sheet) and keep it updated throughout the year of items they like and would want. 

For instance, during summer a few years ago, my husband nonchalantly mentioned that a fish finder for his boat would be cool. I added that to the list and bought it 6 months later just in time for Christmas. He loved it! 

5. Do your research.

This is especially important for expensive items. Know how much they should cost, if there are better brands, and how to know you are getting a good deal. I typically start with asking others for more information. I then use the Internet to educate myself on the products. Then, I look at the biggest retailers for that item and compare prices.

Also, always check for coupons. Even saving a few dollars is money saved!

6. Make a gift or 2.

For any of you who are rolling you eyes and saying "I am not creative" as you read this, I disagree. I believe everyone has a creative side. You just have to become inspired and create a vision and plan for what you want. Use Pinterest and Etsy to give you ideas. There is nothing wrong wth recreating an idea based on someone else's masterpiece.

7. Can you buy pre-loved?

In many instances, the answer here may be "no." Those times where the answer is "yes," you will most likely get the best deal. In our house, toys would be one on this list (like a play kitchen, wagon, or sleds). My child is too young to know the difference or care. In fact, she will most likely be more interested in the wrapping paper than the gift itself.
8. Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Okay, I am the first to admit that I LOVE the rush of all the people on Black Friday! I go every year just for people watching. Okay, you caught me, I shop occasionally as well.

Only buy during these times if you are 100% sure you are getting a steal of a deal. This goes back to researching the product and knowing your stuff!

9. Keep in mind Black Friday, Cyber Monday, ads, and the general gift-giving spirit can persuade you to spend WAY more MONEY than originally planned.

Again, make a budget. Stick to that budget. The overall atmosphere of the holidays can easily pull you into a web of buy, buy, buy. Don't fall for that trick. Really, what is Christmas all about?!?! As a Christian, it isn't about me. It is about the birth of our lord, Jesus Christ. 

10. Realize the best gift you can ever give, is your time.

As I lost my grandparents many years ago, I can honestly say I don't recall a single present they gave me. Although, I know they had given me tons over the years, nothing is jumping out at me now in this moment. What I do remember is the relationship I had with them. They challenged me, loved me, accepted me and, most importantly, let me do the same for them. 

So, take full advantage of this holiday season and spend time with your loved ones! Thank God for the day you are given! I promise you, you are more concerned about the gift you are giving than the person receiving the gift is.

Have a happy holiday season everyone!

What shopping tips do you have?!?!

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