Ten Tips for Smarter Shopping During the Holiday Season

Well, it’s definitely that time of year, the time when for all those who don’t like shopping, are being forced to get out there and do the holiday gifting thing. Although in some places, it may still be warm outside, but the store displays now feature Santa Claus, Christmas trees and ‘Silent Night’ blaring from the speakers, hopefully putting you in the mood. So it may be wise to set up a plan to refine your shopping techniques for this holiday season. Try not to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in years past, such as: standing in those dreaded long line ups, fighting and scratching the massive crowds, spending more than what you budgeted for, waiting until the very last minute and avoiding being trampled fighting for that last discounted camera or flat screen TV.

Instead, play it smart this year…
Here are the Top Ten shopping tips as outlined below. Follow these and you will not suffer the consequences of the holiday shopper’s nightmare, which may include: shortage of cash, higher credit card debt, large crowds, longer line ups, and no product inventory.

1. Try To Use Cash At All Times
Using good ole cash makes it a lot easier to stay within your budget. This does not mean using your debit card, as you can easily spend more on a particular gift provided there’s enough money in your checking account. Set strict spending limits, and pay with cash. When the cash is gone, then there’s no more gift buying. This obviously takes a bit of self-control and that’s difficult to do during the hype of the holiday season, but if you set out $200 for buying gifts, then don’t go over that budget and spend $201. This is tempting as you get into the Christmas spirit with its lights, music, and other holiday shoppers taking home their large shopping bags. So paying with cash will help you stay within your budget.

2. Keep Track Of Your Credit Card Spending
If you absolutely must resort to using a credit card, then use the card with the lowest interest and be absolute sure you are going to pay off the balance the following month. Carrying balances over can cost more than what the item cost itself. So, that great bargain you got during the holidays is not really a bargain 120 days later. Plan to pay off the purchases as soon as possible. Stick to you budget, know exactly how much you’re spending on your credit cards.

3. Be As Patient As Possible
There’s no joy in waiting in a long line up and having to endure repeated price checks and declined credit card holders arguing with the cashier. These things are bound to happen, so stay calm and be patient. If possible leave the kids at home and set out more time than usual. Try to go the first thing in the morning or late at night.

4. Try Shopping Earlier In The Year
No point waiting until the very last moment, but you know a large segment of the population do. Start your Christmas shopping earlier this year. The malls and box stores aren’t that overcrowded then. Most are not really thinking about holiday shopping yet and the prices at times are lower.

5. Choose Less Expensive But Creative Gifts
No not those arts and crafts gifts found at a craft sale, but how about one gift suitable for the entire family? That would definitely save you money. If your entire family loves movies, than buy a few of those. Or how about a great gift basket with several favorite movies, some popcorn, hot chocolate and candy, and maybe a blanket. That would be a lot less expensive than trying to get individual gifts.

6. Have A Shopping Game Plan
In order to get all the must have or hard to get items, have a shopping game plan. The game plan describes when to buy the items, setting a budget, and where you can get the items. Don’t leave your house without one that outlines exactly where you’re shopping, what you’re going to buy, and how much you are going to spend on it. Also know what alternate gifts you can buy if your target gift may not be available.

7. When Shopping… Be Safe Out There
Be safe first. Keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times. This includes your handbags or wallet, your purchases, and of course the kids. Make sure you pay particular attention at the cash register when you can be easily distracted with the transaction. If paying cash, make sure the price and the change are correct. Make sure you get all receipts and if paying with a debit or credit card, make sure you get the card back. Also unfortunately at this time of year, this is when thieves are at their busiest as well. So be a safe shopper!

8. Make Sure You Get Enough Rest
Holiday shopping can be a tiring and a grueling experience. So a part of your shopping game plan should be getting a lot of rest the night before. Try starting out early in the morning to beat the crowd and wear comfortable shoes. Christmas shopping trips can at times be way longer than anticipated, so go shopping alone and not with a friend, as that will save you time as well.

9. Don’t Forget About The Bargains Elsewhere… Such As Outlet Malls
Check out one of the outlet malls in your area for holiday bargains. You may need a car, but the lower prices and smaller crowds can be well worth the drive. You may find bargains on upscale designer merchandise in Outlet Malls.

10. Avoid The Massive Crowds At All Costs
Shopping earlier in the day or first thing Monday morning will help avoid the crowd during the weekend. Or shop later in the evening as most stores have extended holiday hours. Most like to be at home during these hours.

Note: The best alternative of course, is you can do all your shopping online but for most, it takes the “fun” out of the whole holiday shopping experience.

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