courtesy of A New Horizon Credit Counseling
With fall well underway and the winter holidays just around the corner, many people begin to think about that traditional yearly task. No, we’re not talking about adjusting your clock for the end of daylight savings time. Holiday shopping time has arrived but that doesn’t mean you need to take out a second mortgage just to spread the holiday cheer.
This holiday season make it a point to plan your purchases well in advance. Most consumers who rack up the holiday debt do so because they failed to plan ahead. Hurried, last minute shopping will come back to bite you when you get your credit card bill. Try incorporating these tips to give your wallet a holiday gift:
- Set a budget and stick to it. Sometime early in November compile a list of whom you plan on giving presents. Set an overall budget, and then divide that budget between the people on your list. For instance, you might want to spend 20% of your budget on your spouse, but only use 5% on distant Uncle Joe.
- Look for online deals. If you start early, you can shop around and find the best price. Look for websites that price shop for you. Several prominent websites will compare prices for you. Some of the more prominent sites include:
Research internet coupons. Several websites provide coupons that can be used during checkout at popular online retail sites. RetailMeNot.com is a good place to look.
Be aware of “sale adjustments.” Keep your receipts. If you purchase an item at full price and it goes on sale the following week, bring your receipt to the store and ask for an adjustment to the sale price. Retail stores will often issue you a partial refund to effectively give you the sale price.
Look for price-matching policies. Many retail stores will match the prices offered by their competitors.
Consider layaway. Layaway plans offered by retailers can be a good alternative to purchasing with credit. Layaway allows you to purchase an item in installments. Typically, however, the store will hold the item, or “lay it away”, until your last payment. Make sure to begin the process early, though, so you have the item in time for the holidays!
Check out online auctions. eBay and similar auction sites can provide great deals to watchful and patient consumers. If you buy through an auction site, though, make sure to purchase the item at least a couple weeks before the holidays. Some sellers may take longer to ship items than others.
The Friday following Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, is traditionally the most popular shopping day of the year. Black Friday can be a great opportunity to buy at a savings, but be aware of some pitfalls.
- Stick to your budget. This bears repeating, especially when Black Friday rolls around. A $500 item offered for $300 may be a great deal, and very tempting but don’t get charmed by the savings; if your budget for that person is $50, stick to it.
- Be aware of an item’s price history. It’s not unheard of for some retailers to slowly raise the prices of items in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, only to lower them to “sale” prices for Black Friday. Make sure that “deal” is really a deal.
- The early bird gets the worm. Some stores open as early as 4:00 AM. Lines form the night before. Any given store may only have a handful of the best sale items actually in stock. Be early, or risk losing out on the sale. Take your spouse or a friend and split up the shopping, each tackling a separate store.
As a final note, remember to ship early if you’re planning on sending gifts through the mail. If you wait too long you may need to ship express or 2-day at a substantial cost. Happy shopping!
courtesy of A New Horizon Credit Counseling, a national, non-profit credit counseling organization dedicated to providing counseling services and financial education programs to individuals and families from all walks of life helping them with debt consolidation of their unsecured debts.