When people think of holiday shopping they either cringe at the very thought, or go straight into combat mode the minute they hear those words, Black Friday. Being prepared for holiday shopping will not only calm the nerves, your wallet will be less stressed as well. Here are 4 ways to save you time, money, and stress this holiday season.
- Set a budget. Before all else, go through your finances and create a seasonal shopping budget and stick to it. The best way to stay within your budget is to either use cash or a prepaid Visa card and leave the credit and debit cards at home.
Create a budget list or a budget worksheet from one of your computers programs such as Excel. Design lists for gifts you plan to buy, and the food and parties you’ll be spending money on. Don’t forget to include smaller purchase items for teachers, co-workers, or your hairstylist. Include a little extra money in the budget for anything you might have overlooked.
- Always research products before you complete your purchases. Use the internet and become an informed buyer, investigate sales and merchandise. Read those ratings customers have written and product reviews. Check for product recalls and refer to consumer buying guides.
When shopping online find deals with free shipping, this alone can save you hundreds of dollars. There’s no reason to be spending your hard-earned budget on shipping cost. Websites such as Ebay and Amazon have many free shipping offers, Walmart site-to-store is always free, and others have free shipping if your item is over a certain dollar amount. Be sure that there is enough time for shipping if you shop online.
Print gift receipts for easier exchanges or returns. In 2011, Christmas gift returns totaled 46 Billion and nearly half of those taken back to the store the day after.
- If you’re more of the touchy feel kind of person (like I am) you’ll be spending a large amount of time at the mall or other shopping venues. The early bird or night owl catches the worms. That right! To avoid crowds and long lines, plan to shop in the late evening or extremely early hours of the day. Many stores are open 24/7 from Black Friday through Christmas Eve for sales, markdowns, and giveaways.
Word of caution if you adopt this route; this is likely when employees will be busying stocking shelves for the much-anticipated day. Customer service is at an all time low during these hours of operation. If you can’t find an item or need assistance of any kind, chances are you’ll be left alone to fend for yourself.
- Now what to do with that leftover cash you saved from planning ahead? How about saving time by having those bargains gift wrapped. Most communities have volunteer organizations that will wrap your gifts for a small donation. If you are a Prime Member with Amazon, gift wrapping is very inexpensive if not free (Prime Membership will also get you free shipping).
After the gifts are wrapped and there’s still money left over, have some of that holiday dinner pre-made. From pies to hams, there are many baking alternatives if you’re short on time. Many local places advertise entire pre-made meals to take the stress out of the holidays for you. If it’s in your budget and cooking is not your forte, take advantage of a pre-cooked ham, impeccable side dishes, or delectable desserts and pies.