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Holiday Shopping on a Budget

Holiday Shopping on a Budget

The excitement is snowballing as the winter holiday season takes shape. It’s a time of joy, togetherness — and spending! If past is prologue, the average person will spend about $1,000 on gifts, decorations and other holiday-related items. That’s a large chunk of change, especially in these inflationary times, when it can be difficult to manage everyday expenses let alone find the funds for discretionary holiday spending.

However, there are plenty of ways to keep your spending in check and still give your loved ones amazing gifts. Empower yourself with these tips for getting the most from your holiday budget.

Start your holiday shopping early

Now is a good time to start your holiday shopping if you haven’t already begun. Getting an early start can help you in several ways: It gives you a longer window of time to watch for sales so you can buy gifts at discounted prices. It enables you to shop at a reasonable pace and avoid the stress and crowds associated with last-minute shopping. And it builds in more time for shipping the gifts you purchase online.

Manage and track your holiday spending

There’s nothing wrong with getting swept up in the sentiment of the holidays! Just ground yourself first by doing some practical planning. First, look at your budget to see how much you can actually afford to spend on the holidays. Set a limit on your holiday spending and then commit to sticking to it. Second, make a list of the people you’d like to buy gifts for. Using your budget as a guide, assign a dollar amount to each person so that you have an idea of which gifts may be within range.

Keep your gift list close as you shop (on your phone, for example) so that you can check off each person’s name as you buy their gift. Subtract whatever you spend on them from your budget limit. (Remember to include any costs for shipping, gift bags and tags, etc.) Being aware of where your budget stands at any time can help you avoid overspending.

Know how — and where — to find the best deals

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may get a lot of press, but don’t limit yourself to these traditional larger-than-life shopping days. The retail industry has gone through major changes post-pandemic; notably, inventories of clothing and other goods have been stacking up as consumers have focused on buying essentials. Retailers are embracing a variety of strategies to clear out that inventory, and so storewide sales, online coupons and deals, and targeted price drops are happening every day.

Some shoppers swear by price-tracking and price-comparison apps to stay on top of these opportunities and see how various retailers’ prices compare. Many also rely on websites and apps that offer online coupons, promo codes, cash-back offers and other deals. Technology can make it easier to identify the best time and place to make purchases.

If you’re more of a traditional shopper, you can watch for weekly newspaper ads or pick up fliers at your favorite stores to make sure you’re buying items at the best price. Many retailers will price match, too, so ask about that if you see an advertised price at Store A but would like to buy the item at Store B.

What to do if your gift list exceeds your budget

If you enjoy spreading your holiday cheer to many people — more than you can afford to buy gifts for — then think about what you can do for them. Your grandmother might appreciate a homecooked dinner and a visit from you far more than an expensive gift, for example, and how excited would your neighbor be to accept your gift of shoveling their driveway or mowing their lawn?

If you’re artistically inclined, making gifts — a ceramic vase, watercolor painting, unique jewelry, etc. — may be less expensive than buying them. Don’t underestimate the value of handcrafted presents. Taking the time to create something especially for your loved one is a priceless gift that truly captures the essence of the season.

One more budget-stretching idea: Suggest a gift exchange. Buying for four, five or even 10 family members can get costly. A gift exchange is a fun, budget-friendly way for every person to give and get a gift. Just make sure everyone agrees on a gift value so that one person isn’t getting a $10 item when someone else is getting a $100 item.

Happy holidays ahead!

Reining in your holiday shopping costs doesn’t have to be difficult. It just requires smart planning and discipline. Keep notes of how much you spend this year so that you can save throughout 2023 to make next year's holiday shopping carefree! 

This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. Any reliance on the information herein is solely and exclusively at your own risk and you are urged to do your own independent research. To the extent information herein references an outside resource or Internet site, Dollar Bank is not responsible for information, products or services obtained from outside sources and Dollar Bank will not be liable for any damages that may result from your access to outside resources. As always, please consult your own counsel, accountant, or other advisor regarding your specific situation.

Posted: November 08, 2022