Christmas has long been an important holiday celebrated by most Americans, and giving gifts, traveling to see loved ones and enjoying holiday feasts are an important part of the tradition. While some families are still experiencing tight budgets due to economic factors, Christmas gift spending is predicted to rise again this year. According to a recent Gallup Poll, Americans will spend an average of $830.00 on Christmas gifts alone in 2016. Food and travel costs have risen as well, but most people are willing to sacrifice later to be with their loved ones now. Few families realize the total cost of Christmas spending because many of them pay for their purchases with credit, and few of them think of the importance of strategic planning when they buy. There are a number of ways to manage a budget when selecting gifts, traveling or planning holiday get togethers.
Consumer Shopping Strategies and Tips
While retailers depend on a good holiday season to keep their businesses in the black, consumers now have many options to manage their spending without breaking their holiday gift budgets. Controlling the cost of gift purchases is easier than ever before, and saving money is one of the best ways to keep the budget in check. Reasonable buying strategies are important for today’s consumers, so here are 10 strategies consumers can use that will save money this Christmas.
Set a Family Gift Budget
One of the largest costs for many families is gift buying, and consumers who have paid off their Christmas debt months after the holiday have been shocked at how high the cost of credit has become. One way to avoid this cost is to decide how much to spend before shopping begins, and the agreed amount should be in tune with the family’s ability to pay in cash or pay off the debt right after the holiday. While not all gifts may fall into this category, spending can be limited by choosing mainly lower-cost items and only selecting a few high-priced gifts. Even purchasing just a few items with cash will limit future debt, and the gifts given will still be enjoyed by those who receive them.
Create a Gift Plan
The majority of consumers have a list of people they will give gifts to, and they will save money by creating a gift plan to make appropriate choices that fit into their budget. This plan should be discussed before buying begins, and it should be used as a guide to shop for the best deals. Online retailers often offer the same price reductions as brick and mortar stores, and free shipping helps consumers to keep down costs while they save time. Comparison shopping online or with local sales ads also offers shoppers opportunities to find great savings, and consumers who take advantage of retailers that offer price matching may stretch their budget further.
Avoid Gimmicks and Impulse Buys
Over the years, retailers have worked hard to come up with last minute gift buys to attract weary consumers. Some of them are excellent deals, but they can be budget busters if they are not part of the buying plan. When consumers go into a store to purchase gifts, they should have their list with them and stick to it. Many retail gimmicks are simply a way to attract consumers to buy items they would not normally want, and this is a budget busting item often paid for with high interest credit that will linger well past the season.
Read the Fine Print
Sales are a large part of the Christmas buying season, but many of them are limited in scope. Consumers who do not know all the details of a sale may find items are priced much higher when they get to the store, and it will hamper their ability to keep costs within their budget. Before making the decision to purchase any item, it is best to note the details such as the dates of the sale, quantity limits and rain checks, and when the discount will be applied. Many retailers will not extend sale prices after a sale is over, and they do not offer rain checks if an item is out of stock. Many companies also offer rebates rather than point of sale discounts because they count on only a small percentage of consumers sending in their rebate information at a later date.
Ask for a Discount
When consumers walk into retail establishments, they see prices everywhere. Few of them know that stores are often willing to give discounts in certain circumstances. Items with a small price tag are generally not discounted, but any items more than $50.00 may offer a savings opportunity. If the item is a model that has been discontinued, ask about a clearance discount. When only a few units of an item are left, the store may be willing to sell the floor model at a discount because it has been taken out of its box. It may take a few extra minutes until a manager approves the lower amount, but it is a small price to pay for extra savings.
Leave the Credit Cards Home
Christmas purchases are often paid for with credit, and this raises the cost of every item if they are not paid off immediately. The annual percentage rates charged by credit companies are applied daily to the unpaid balance, and interest adds up quickly. Rather than regretting purchasing decisions in the months ahead, consumers should limit their purchases to what they can afford to pay immediately. If paying in cash is not always possible, then make paying off the credit debt a priority after the holiday. This will help keep the cost of gift giving down, and it may make it easier to save for next year’s spending.
The Incredible Deal and Credit
Retailers know that the Christmas shopping season is their last chance to reap a profit for the year, and many of them offer deals that are too good to pass up. A large ticket item a family would not normally be able to afford is suddenly within their reach, and they often make the purchase with credit. The best strategy to use in this case is choosing the credit that will cost the least amount of interest until the item is paid off. This limits the damage to the family’s budget, and it helps them to keep their credit payments as low as possible.
Be Wary of Enticing Store Credit Card Offers
Stores that maintain their own store branded credit card typically will offer you a special discount or other incentive on your initial purchase in order to get you signed up. Signing up for too many credit cards can negatively affect your credit score. Worse yet, if you have trouble paying off your credit card or managing your credit, the discount or other incentive being offered to you could result in your purchase being more expensive than with the discount.
Christmas is often a time when those who live far away want to travel home to be with their loved ones, but the cost of getting there may be expensive. Modern travel in planes has become a nightmare of fares that change as the consumer watches, but there are websites that specialize in finding the best prices. For those who choose to travel by car, it is best to use online searches to find the best hotel rates. Eating out is another travel expense, but many chain restaurants offer special deals during the holidays. These can often be found online, and consumers should take advantage of them.
Parties and Dinner for the Holiday
Holiday parties and Christmas dinner are generally expenses most families are willing to pay for the memories they create with loved ones, but few consumers think about the cost before they plan. Catering may seem like the most expensive option, but shopping around can turn up some great deals for parties. Christmas dinner is often cooked by the family, and many grocery stores offer holiday specials. It is wise to comparison shop, and most stores now offer their weekly flyers online for those who want to use electronic coupons.
The Christmas holiday is often a time when friends and family take special care to spend time together, and they show their love for one another by giving gifts, throwing parties and hosting holiday feasts. The value of the gift will never be less than the thought behind it, and consumers who choose to spend wisely during this season will find the joy of giving can last far longer when they use good shopping strategies that stretch their gift buying budget. Comparison shopping for travel expenses as well as Christmas dinner and parties will help make joyful memories without the hangover of excessive credit debt in the New Year.