The holiday season is among the most stressful times of year. With long lists of things to do, meals to prepare, family and friends to entertain, and gifts to buy, many people embark on the holiday season with more fear than cheer. And with so many people trying to spend less these days, preparing for the holidays has become that much more challenging. But by planning in advance and establishing a holiday shopping game plan, men and women can save money and maintain their peace of mind.
Start at the bottom line. The best way to avoid overspending during the holidays is to establish a budget — and then stick to it. Before making any holiday purchases, determine a holiday spending limit that is acceptable to you and your spouse or partner. The figure should include not only the cost of gifts, but expected expenditures for holiday entertainment and entertaining, decorations, travel, and items such as clothing and home improvements.
Know as you go. Know what portion of a holiday budget is for gifts and keep a running total of expenditures as you shop. This way, you will have a sense of where you stand at any given point in the shopping season and can adjust accordingly.
Be an informed shopper. There are deals galore in the run-up to the holidays and it pays to compare prices and offers before making any purchases. Check newspaper and online ads as well as retailers’ Web sites to determine both where and when you can get the best deal.
Make a list and check it twice. Plan your purchases ahead of time to avoid impulse buying. By having a gift in mind for each person on your list, you will save time, money and headaches.
Consider family gifts. If there are a number of families on your gift list, consider giving a single gift — or gift basket — that everyone can enjoy. A waffle iron or ice cream maker, for example, is a gift that foodie families will savor for years to come.
Give the gift of your time. Some of the most cherished gifts have no price tag attached. Homemade gift certificates for things like car washing, dishwashing, babysitting, lawn mowing, and closet cleaning are always wonderful and welcome. As the giver, just make sure to make good on your promise.