Master holiday shopping for less

Maybe you’re dreading the onset of holiday shopping, or maybe you can’t wait to get started. Whichever approach you take to holiday shopping, the thought of how much you’ll be spending on gifts and parties is probably daunting.

Last year, U.S. shoppers racked up an average of $1,054 in credit card debt during the holiday season, according to a MagnifyMoney survey. About half of those people planned to pay off the debt within 3 months, but nearly 30% didn’t expect to pay that debt off within 5+ months. The interest charges on that debt really add up!

holiday shopping

This year, don’t be one of the holiday shoppers burning money on credit card interest payments. Plan ahead using our comprehensive guide to holiday shopping for less, and avoid paying interest just for bringing holiday cheer.

#1: Make a (realistic) gift list

Make a big list of everyone who you’ll need to get a gift for this year. Not just your family and close friends, either – be sure to include people like your kids’ teachers, the aunt that occasionally shows up for Christmas… get them all! We also recommend adding 2 contingency gifts that could work for anyone. Of the people with holiday debt in 2017, 36% of them went over budget on last minute gifts. Better to plan for these and return them later, then to get caught by surprise and spend extra.

#2: Make a gift budget

Take an honest look at your finances, and decide how much you can spend on gifts this year – while still meeting all of your other financial obligations, staying on track with your savings goals, etc. If you made a holiday savings account this year, take a look at how much you accumulated and see how much you have available to spend.

#3: Allocate money to each item on your gift list

Decide how much you’ll spend on gifts for each person on your list. For example, you might spend more on your spouse or siblings than you would on a niece or cousin. Don’t let your total go over the number you picked in step 2!

#4: Time to shop!

Start early, and make good use of any sales you can find. Check items off your list as you buy them, so you won’t end up buying extra. Write down how much you actually spent on each gift, and keep your total amount left to spend up to date. If you do have to overspend on one person’s gift, adjust the other spend expectations accordingly.

#5: Compare prices while you’re shopping

If you’re getting your nephew a soccer ball, don’t buy the first one you see. Check around for the best prices, and ask your friends where they’ve seen the best deals this year. This is when having a list comes in handy! You can ask friends about specific deals, and you’ll always know what you still need to pick up when you come across sales.

#6: Discounted gift cards

If you know you’ll be buying gifts at a particular store, look into buying discounted gift cards (a $50 card for $30, for example), and buy your gifts with that! Groupon is a great first place to look. Gift cards may not be the most personal gifts to give to family or friends, but they can be really useful to help you get more or better gifts for every dollar you spend.

#7: Do most of your holiday shopping online

Shopping with a big group of buddies is really fun! Unfortunately, it can also encourage you to go off budget, and start picking up gifts you don’t need (or gifts for yourself…). Seeing your friends, especially if they’re not the best budgeters, pick up extra gifts for their family, significant others, and friends might encourage you to do the same. Feel free to join in on the group trip, but leave your credit card at home!

With these seven tips, you can make a good plan for this holiday shopping season – and you can actually stick to it, too. You’ll have amazing gifts, parties, and more, while still coming in under budget. You can even use your savings to jump-start your savings goals for 2019!

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