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Tips for Holiday Shopping on a Budget


‘Tis the season for giving – but too much giving can put a serious strain on your wallet. Don’t spend the new year deep in debt. Follow these 10 tips to keep your holiday shopping within your budget.

  1. Decide on a budget. You can’t stick to a budget if you don’t know what your budget is. Before you start shopping, do some calculations. Decide how much you can safely afford to spend on the holidays, and then figure out how you want to divvy up your funds.
  2. Make a list. Impulse buys are one of the quickest ways to ruin a budget. Make a list of everyone you need to shop for and everything you want to buy. Check off items as you get them. And yes, you should probably check it twice.
  3. Organize a Secret Santa gift exchange. If you have too many people on your list, this is a great way to limit the number of gifts you have to buy without leaving anyone out. Secret Santa gift exchanges work well at the workplace, with friends, and even in families. You could also try doing a White Elephant Gift Exchange.
  4. Watch for sales. There’s more than Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Keep an eye out for sales throughout the holiday season. Visit sites like Groupon and LivingSocial for hot deals.
  5. Use coupons. Coupons are a great way to save some extra money. These days, many stores offer digital coupons as well as the paper ones that you clip out. Before you go shopping, check the store’s website or app.
  6. Compare prices and check reviews. Is that sale as good as you think it is? Do some comparison shopping to be sure you’re getting the best deal. Before buying a product, check the reviews online.
  7. Keep receipts. You might want to return a gift before you give it – for example, if you find out the intended recipient already got the item. It’s also possible that the person you give a gift to will need to return or exchange it – for example, if you give someone clothes that don’t fit. Keep the receipts handy.
  8. Shop throughout the year. It’s a little late for this holiday season, but this strategy can help you next year. If you find something that would make a good holiday gift, think about getting it – even if the holidays are months away. This reduces the stress of holiday shopping, spreads out your expenses and results in some thoughtful presents.
  9. Consider a hand-crafted gift. You probably have a talent such as baking, wood-working or crafting. Deploy your skills to give loved ones something with high perceived value at a low cost.
  10. Give great experiences. Sometimes the best gifts come from time spent together. Rather than buying or making “things,” think of how you can give your time to the people you love. Would your significant other love a day of pampering? Would your parents like help with gardening or painting? Would your friend love to take a road trip? Create a thoughtful gift certificate and wrap it, just as you would an item. Most importantly, make sure your gifts of time are redeemed and memorable!

One final note: It’s also a good idea to keep a spreadsheet or a journal of your purchases. This will help you remember what you’ve already purchased and avoid over-spending – particularly if you shop throughout the year.

Here’s to giving more and spending less this holiday season!