Before Thanksgiving dinner has been reduced to leftovers, shoppers will hit the stores in search of bargains for the holiday shopping season. Serious bargain hunters get excited about the big sales that go on around the Thanksgiving holiday.
To make the most of the big day, hardcore shoppers sort through advertisements and go online to compare prices. They plan to hit stores for time-specific sales and map out routes to cut down on time wasted in traffic or looking for a parking spot. Others get caught up in the moment and join the spending frenzy with no plan or shopping list.
Starting your holiday shopping early helps, but with a little forethought, even procrastinators can benefit by following these shopping tips from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
Plan holiday spending. Regardless of economic conditions, piling up a lot of holiday debt is never a good idea. Know how much money you can reasonably afford to spend. To avoid financial problems in 2018, limit spending to the cash you set aside for the season.
Your holiday spending plan is not just about the gifts you plan to buy. Remember to include parties, greeting cards and postage, charitable giving, clothes to wear to holiday functions and the other things that make your holiday season joyful.
- Be creative. Belt-tightening is in, wasteful spending is out. Remember, the thought is what counts. Homemade gifts — whether food, clothing, or crafts — may be appreciated more than something purchased at the local big box store. Gifts of time for babysitting, car-washing or house-cleaning may also be well-received.
- Think carefully about each and every purchase. At the store, keep your spending plan and shopping list in hand. Avoid deciding on an item in the spur of the moment. Take your time. Think about your needs and your spending limits.
- Use ads to plan your purchases. Compare offerings from different stores to find the best deals. Once you decide on an item, compare features, quality, prices, charges for installation, delivery and service. The cost to use and maintain an item may make selecting a more expensive model the cheaper option.
- Conserve gasoline. Avoid running from store to store. Instead, use the phone and Internet to find information. Particularly for gifts you need to send out of town, ordering the desired item for direct shipment to the recipient is easier and may be cheaper than paying to ship it yourself.
- Shop online and avoid all the chaos. Free shipping specials and the ability to locate the best price make online shopping very attractive for busy shoppers. Use a secure browser, shop with companies you know, and keep your passwords creative and private. Pay particular attention to shipping charges. Be sure to keep records of your purchases.
- Wait for last-minute price cuts for items that are not in short supply. Retailers will roll out holiday items earlier than ever this year. Sales may also start earlier as retailers clear out merchandise. The best deals may come late in the season.
- Examine factory seconds and irregulars carefully. These items have flaws or imperfections. Find the flaw and decide if it makes a difference.
- Check classified ads for items. Buying person-to-person often saves money.
- Expect to pay a fair and reasonable price for goods and services. Bargains that sound too good to be true are usually just that. Read labels, seals, tags and instruction booklets, and ask questions.
- Get the facts before you buy. Find out what is promised, who stands behind the promises and what you must do to benefit from any warranty. Return a purchase that is damaged, did not provide reasonable wear or otherwise failed to live up to the guarantee.
Overspending can ruin the holidays and the months that follow. Plan ahead and stick to your plan. Spending only as much as you can afford will make the holidays better for you and your family — even if they do not receive everything they wanted.
(Michael Rupured is an Extension financial management specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.)