While it seems like we were just barbequing and watching fireworks, the holiday shopping season is looming right ahead of us, and with this time of year comes the usual flurry of commercials, gift getting, and all too often, a financial hangover that can remain long after the holiday season has ended.
Part of this financial trap that many people can get themselves into is that purchasing gifts for the holidays starts earlier every year. According to a 2017 survey, 54 percent of consumers plan to begin shopping before Black Friday. This can create a problem that is all too real for individuals, as nearly 8 out of 10 overspend on gift purchases, even if they start out with a budget.
It doesn't have to be that way -- it is entirely possible to purchase gifts, be festive, and participate in this time of year without blowing a hole in your budget. Doing so on a consistent basis, however, requires that you come prepared, make a plan, and leverage the resources available to you.
Let's take a look at some suggestions to help you stick to your budget during this holiday shopping season that you can implement at no cost to you:
1. Use cash when you can.
Using cash may seem a little old fashioned, especially with so many alternative options available -- Amazon Prime and Uber are just two of the most prominent examples you and I are most familiar with. Using cash has been proven to reduce the likelihood of unplanned purchases, increase the odds of you sticking to your budget, and avoiding that nasty holiday spending hangover.
2. Leverage technology for your credit card spending.
Almost every credit card comes with the option to send you notifications and alerts when a charge is made on your account. Making good use of this option will not only let you know if someone else is spending using your credit information, but also will remind you every time you make a purchase. That reminder, in and of itself, will help you stick to your spending plan.
3. Organize your gift giving ahead of time.
One of the most common reasons why consumers overspend during the holiday season is unexpected purchases, and making a plan ahead of time can help you stick to your budget. Better yet, organizing your list of gifts into different categories -- co-workers, friends, and family -- can remind you of what gifts to buy for whom, and when to purchase those gifts.
4. Do your homework.
Sure, we all know that buying gifts online can save you time and money, but did you know that the same items will be priced at different levels depending on when you are shopping? One tip that I always suggest is to start shopping early, which gives you time to find the best deal, and take advantage of discounts as they are offered.
5. Take advantage of free shipping.
Amazon isn't the only company that offers free shipping during the holiday season, although the fact that they do has encouraged other companies to offer similar options for purchases made in the run up to the holidays. There are even websites that list all of the free shipping options -- be sure to take advantage of them.
The holiday shopping season is a time of year that can spread joy, encourage us to be generous with others, and remind us of all the positive things in our lives. That said, a recurring theme that is all too common is the holiday hangover that inevitably follows the overspending that happens this time of year. Taking steps now, leveraging the tools and resources available to you, and taking advantage of the options available to you can trim your spending, and prevent that spending hangover.