Last minute shopping…It’s not nearly as popular as it once was, thanks in large part to online shopping. But 57% of holiday shoppers still believe they’ll be finishing up their gift-purchasing in December.
Speaking of last minute shopping, I strongly advise against this long-lived traditional strategy. By shopping around Christmas Eve, you’ll most likely spend more than you planned and buy something he or she doesn’t really want or need. Plus, you’ll potentially have to stand in never-ending check-out lines.
My advice for Christmas shopping is just like the advice I give for all financial occurrences, Have A Plan.
Plan Before You Shop
Make a List. List the people (or pets) you are buying for and the dollar amount you would like to spend. Once you total the dollars on the list, consider the impact this will have on your budget. Then ask “Can I afford it?” If not, revise the list accordingly.
- Research Your Gift Idea. After you decide the amount you can spend, you can consider what to buy. Once you have an idea, you may want to do some research on-line. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 81% of consumers use the Internet to search for products (I did not make this up). In addition, there are many comparative shopping sites that help you find the best price for your item. Shopify.com lists the top three as: Google Shopping, NexTag, and PriceGrabber. Even if you plan to shop in a local store, check the prices on-line first.
- Decide Where to Purchase. Purchasing online or from a local store may depend on the item, the price, and the amount of time you have. Per the 2018 Deloitte holiday retail survey, 60% of consumers plan to use the internet to make at least a portion of their holiday gift purchases.
Through your research, you may find that the best price is available from a store ten states away or from an Internet-only venue. Remember to check the quality along with the price. There are certain products that are perfect for purchase over the Internet, e.g. books, music, and products you are already familiar with. You know what you are getting and quality is not an issue. Digital equipment, such as cameras, is best purchased with a brand name. Before you purchase online, determine whether you need to add shipping and handling charges. After all the extra costs, you may find a better deal from the local store. Don’t forget to consider the delivery time. If time is of the essence, you may find that your only option is to fight the crowd at the mall.
- Cutting Coupons is Cool Again. Once you decide on the gift, look for the coupons that can be used either at a store or for on-line shopping. The local newspaper is one source. The Internet is another. You can find coupons from manufacturers as well as retail stores on the Web. MoneyPantry.com lists the top three as: Coupons.com, RetailMeNot.com, and RedPlum.com.
Tip for Next Year
Establish a gift saving account in January. Determine the amount you would like to spend for gifts next December. Divide the amount by the number of paychecks you will receive in the next eleven months. Arrange for the calculated amount to be direct deposited from each paycheck to the gift savings account. If you use this discipline, the funds will be available when needed and you will avoid the budget crunch in December and January.
Gift giving can be fun and personally satisfying or it can also be a time of great stress and anxiety. Decisions on gifts, budget concerns, and time crunches can ruin your holiday spirit. To relieve the stress, get organized and do your research before you shop. This may save you dollars and time.