Shop Smarter This Holiday Season

Take These Steps to Help Navigate Your Holiday Shopping

Thanksgiving is finally here! Before you can even enjoy it, your mind may already be stressing about holiday shopping and the expense that comes with it. But with preparation, you may be able to shop on budget, get gifts for everyone on your list, and avoid the stress of opening your credit card bill.

Step 1: Create your budget

Who is on your nice list this year? Take the time to write down everyone you want to give a gift and set your budget. The holidays can be expensive and stores and websites are designed to entice.

We all wish we could spend more to show our loved ones how much we care. But be realistic about how much you can spend. Also, consider all the additional expenses you may incur, such as holiday decorations, gas or airline tickets for traveling, gift wrap, holiday cards, and food for holiday parties.

Should you use cash or credit? If you aren’t good at budgeting, use cash when possible. If you don’t have the money in your hand, you won’t buy it. If you choose to use a credit card and frequent one store often, consider getting its store credit card. Some offer extra money off or points for using their card. Some offer free loyalty cards as well that can provide extra rewards.

Step 2: Avoid impulse buys

Do you like the excitement of shopping Black Friday? While Black Friday may not be for everyone, chances are you will be lured to a store for some special over the holiday season. And once there, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy and make impulse buys. Review websites and newspaper ads before you go out, so you can focus on what you really want and keep your eyes on deals.

Shopping online may keep you focused on what you need and give you more time to consider your purchases. You can wait for Cyber Monday and often get similar deals or special deals online. Plus, many retailers offer free shipping this time of year. Don’t forget to search for extra coupons and promotional codes. Just make sure to track what you are spending on your credit card to stick to your budget and avoid surprises when the bill arrives.

Step 3: Get creative

Do you have any hidden talents? If you can’t afford to buy presents for everyone you want, you can make your own and save money in the process. Are you good at knitting, baking, or crafts? Use your skills and talents to provide unique gifts. You may be able to make a big batch of cookies, for example, and cross several people off your list.

If you aren’t much of a baker, consider these recipes that use only a few ingredients and don’t require advance skills:  fudge, toffee , or crispy treats. Whatever you choose to make, place them in boxes, jars, or tins that you can find in the dollar store to help with presentation.

We all like to be pampered too. Try making homemade bath bombs to impress your friends and family, knit something they need, or try these DIY projects to make something special.

Step 4: Be safe

While most of us enjoy the holiday spirit, crimes also go up. If you head to the stores, make sure you stay alert and keep track of your packages. Never leave your purse in a cart. If you shop online, make sure you see the lock symbol to show you are making a secure transaction. Also, beware of shipping information emails. Some phishers send out phony emails to trick you into providing your private information.

Americans spend about $800 on gifts each year. While it does take self-control, if you shop smart this season, you may not fear the bill afterward. We wish you a happy and safe start to your holiday season!

This post is part of the Branford Hall weekly blog where we provide lifestyle tips to help support our students. If you are interested in a career training program, contact us to find out more about our programs or schedule a tour at one of our campuses.