Christmas shopping on a budget: As imaginary as Santa himself, or a realistic option worth exploring?

 Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that magical man actually showed up this Christmas with a bag full of presents for you and yours to enjoy? As great as it would be for your wallet and sanity — it’s not going to happen.

 But just because Santa isn’t going to squeeze down your chimney this Christmas Eve, doesn’t make Christmas shopping on a budget impossible.

 

Six Christmas shopping tips: How to shop smart this holiday season

Whether online or in-person, there are plenty of ways to score the best deals, get the steepest discounts and stay well within your budget this gift-giving season.

 Here are a few of the best tips to keep more money in your wallet this December.

 1) Set a budget: The first step to staying within your budget is actually setting one. Jamie, from Simple Living Mommy, suggests being as specific as possible with your holiday budget. Rather than coming up with an overall number to spend, she offers this insight: “Pick an amount of money you’re comfortable spending for each person on your list. This is key because this is now your price to beat list.” When you set a number and aim to stay below it, finding the best Christmas shopping deals becomes an adventurous challenge, rather than an account-draining chore.

2) Be sure to give, not buy: Resist the urge to buy yourself a little something-something this holiday season. As silly as it sounds, the NRF found that 59 percent of shoppers admit to treating themselves to a holiday gift, and on average, will spend $140 doing so. Finance blogger, Scott Alan Turner suggests instituting a “No shopping on Amazon for yourself rule” in December. Instead, his advice is to stick to your Christmas shopping budget by adding your must-have item to your wishlist instead of in your shopping cart. “If nobody buys it for you, pick it up on sale after Christmas for yourself."

3) Know how to shop online: According to a study by Deloitte Insights, 55 percent of survey respondents plan to shop online for gifts this holiday season. If you identify with the majority on this one, you need to understand how to maximize your online retail dollars.

  • Leave items in your shopping cart. Be sure to sign up for an account with your email address on a website before loading up your cart and abandoning it. Never check out in the same visit. Retailers want nothing more than to get you over the finish line, and will likely send coupon codes enticing you to complete the checkout process.
  • Use private browsing. Dynamic pricing is a tactic used by e-commerce companies to increase the price of a product that a consumer seems interested in buying. By using the private browsing option on your phone or computer, tracking tools and cookies can’t collect the information needed to justify a price gouge.
  • Always search for coupon codes. Most online retailers have coupon codes available. All you have to do is know where to find them. A quick Google search that includes the name of the store and “coupon codes” should do the trick. There are also third-party tools like Honey that will find the best Christmas shopping deals and automatically add them at checkout.
  • Become an Amazon Prime member. If you haven’t jumped on the Amazon Prime bandwagon yet - now’s the time. If you prefer to buy gifts online, there’s no better Christmas shopping tip. As a Prime member, you’ll enjoy free 2-day shipping on every order, not to mention a long list of other benefits like video and music streaming. The cost is just $12.99 per month and can be canceled at any time. The site has been known to offer new members a free month around the holidays, so be sure to keep an eye out for even greater savings.

4) Buy discounted gift cards: There are plenty of retailers (think Sam’s Club and Costco) and websites that offer discounted gift cards for sale. Even if you aren’t a fan of giving gift cards for presents, you can use the funds to purchase other items on your list. I can’t think of a better example of how to shop smart this holiday season than buying $50 worth of gifts for just $35 - can you?

5) Research purchase incentives: Get more bang for your buck by purchasing gifts at stores that offer shopping incentives. Kohls, for example, gives shoppers $15 in store credit for every $50 spent around Thanksgiving (normally $10). You can use that bonus money to buy gifts for others on your list.

6) Compare prices before you buy: Buying a gift at one store and finding it cheaper somewhere else is a quick way to kill your holiday shopping high. Avoid the headache of returns and exchanges by comparing prices before you buy. If you don’t have the time or energy to do this on your own, there are plenty of online comparison tools that will do it for you free of charge.

 

Dreading Christmas shopping on a budget?

The holidays should be enjoyed, not stressed over. If Christmas shopping has you feeling financially overwhelmed and uncertain, it’s important to know you have options.

 

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