The holidays are a wonderful time for making memories with friends and family but can be notoriously hard on your wallet. Plus, 2020 is a whole different ballgame. When I was younger, one of the budgeting tips that I heard often was “pay cash so you can see the money leaving your hand” as opposed to using a credit card. This year has made following that advice more difficult, with an acceleration of online shopping and the refusal of cash at some stores. I’ve done most, if not all, of my holiday shopping online this year, and I know I’m not alone. While online shopping, it’s important to be extra mindful of your spending and to keep track of what you’ve purchased. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re not overspending on gifts.
Set the budget before you surf the web
Whether you’re braving the stores or shopping from the comfort of your own home, setting a budget for each family member and friend you plan to shop for is the easiest way to make sure you don’t overspend. Make a list of all the people you plan to shop for, write in a reasonable dollar amount you can use toward their gift, and stick to it as best you can. Make sure you factor in shipping costs, as they can add up very quickly.
Once you start shopping, especially online, keep track of everything you’ve bought. Because you don’t have the physical gift right away, it can be easy to forget that you’ve already purchased a family member’s present. Have a separate running list of the gifts you’ve purchased and who they’re for, along with the dollar amount you’ve spent. Then, once the gift comes in the mail, you can just mark it off.
Don’t get sucked into “doorbuster” deals
We’re now past Black Friday and Cyber Monday madness, but “doorbuster” deals are still out there. I’ve always been told that in general, if you wouldn’t have bought an item at full price, you don’t need to buy it just because it’s on sale. While you might be “saving” money on something that’s on sale, if you weren’t planning to buy it to begin with, you still lose money. A big retailer doesn’t put on sales out of the goodness of its heart; it does it to get people to spend more money on its goods, even if they wouldn’t have prior to the sale.
Don’t get me wrong: Taking advantage of sales can be a great thing, especially if you’ve been waiting to buy a particular item until it gets marked down. And making sure you check multiple websites/stores to make sure you are getting the best deal is always a good idea. Just try to avoid the temptation to buy something purely because it’s on sale. Lastly, try not to linger on websites or in stores once you’ve secured the item you intended to buy.
Stay on top of your spending
With every major bank and credit card company utilizing online portals to track real-time spending, staying on top of your spending is easier than ever. Make sure you are taking advantage of your online access through your bank and credit card company.
Patronizing local, non-chain stores is more important this year than ever. With the pandemic wreaking havoc on so many small businesses this year, if you’re able to shop small, consider doing so before shopping at big retailers. Shopping small helps local economic growth, and you can find unique and personalized gifts that you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.
Start the New Year off strong
Starting to put money aside every month beginning in January can take much of the stress out of holiday shopping. Buying gifts throughout the year or putting money aside into a holiday gift fund can save you time during the holidays as well as prevent overspending while last-minute shopping. This January, take a look at the total you spent on holiday shopping this year and come up with a game plan for saving for next December. Even setting aside a small amount each month can make a huge impact once the next December rolls around.