Yes, it’s that time again!! Seems like we just finished up with Halloween and the candy is still hanging around calling our names. But we better tighten our bootstraps and get ready for holiday shopping because it is starting whether we like it or not. Read on for my 10 Christmas shopping strategies to save a lot of money AND stress!
For me, I personally despise holiday shopping. It starts out to be fun, getting my list together, picking up a few things here and there, and starting to hear the Christmas music playing in the stores. But then, before I know it, the stress starts to build and the time clock begins to tick louder and louder, until before I know it, I’m back to the place I was the year before, swearing to myself that this time next year I will not allow myself to get to this point. Sound familiar? Well, this year I’d really like to make a concerted effort to stick to a budget and be uber prepared so that I can actually enjoy Christmas maybe even as much as I did when I was a kid, when I looked at it as a magical time of year.
10 Christmas Shopping Strategies – Save a Lot of Money & Stress
# 1. START YOUR LIST NOW
- I have a pre-typed excel spreadsheet that I use every year that lists each recipient’s name, gift ideas, budgeted dollar amount, actual gifts bought and actual dollar amount spent. I even have a column to check off once I’m done with that person’s gifts. At the bottom of the page, I keep a running total of what I’ve spent. It really keeps me organized.
- Brainstorm ideas for each and every person on your list and add your ideas to your list before aimlessly wandering around the stores or online, with no target gift in mind.
- Look on websites that offer user ratings on their items.
# 2. PLAN YOUR BUDGET
Each year I aim for a budget to follow but then totally blow past it, only to end up panicking around the January timeframe, trying to figure out creative ways to pay the bills.
- Plan a dollar amount for each and every person on your list and add those dollar amounts up. If they add up to be over your budget, go back to the people on your list and start decreasing the dollar amounts until you get to a total that you are comfortable with.
# 3. DO AN EARLY INVENTORY OF YOUR WRAPPING PAPER, TAPE, BOWS, TAGS, AND TISSUE PAPER
Every year, when it gets to be around the week before Christmas, that’s when I decide I’d better start wrapping gifts. It is then that I realize that I’m out of the gift wrapping essentials and I have to go out and find what’s already been picked over in the stores.
- Walmart is a necessary evil during this time of year for these items. They have a huge selection and you can’t beat their prices. As soon as they’ve got these items stocked, go out and get them. They’re probably being stocked on the shelves as you read this.
# 4. GATHER COUPONS
Coupons are everywhere these days – in the Sunday paper, in the mail, through email, on websites, and even on your smart phone (see Terri’s post on Smart Phone Apps). Utilize all of these coupons and keep them organized and handy. You can really save a lot of money this way.
- I keep a coupon organizer in my purse at all times. You never know when you’ll happen to be in a store and find that perfect item only to realize that you left that store’s coupon at home.
# 5. SHOP ONLINE
The beauty of shopping online is that you can do it anytime. You can be wearing your fuzzy slippers and sipping on coffee. You don’t have to go anywhere and your purchases are delivered right to your door. Always check for free shipping offers. Shipping costs can add up quickly. Some stores even offer free shipping both ways. So if you receive your item and you’re not happy with it, you can use their free shipping label to ship it back.
- Black Friday or Cyber Monday are great times to shop online. If you happen to miss these days or still have more gifts to buy, don’t worry, as it gets closer and closer to Christmas, the prices seem to get better and better. Just pay attention to deadline shipping dates, so you receive your gifts in time to wrap and give on Christmas day.
- Sign up to be on the email list of all of your favorite stores, so that you can be the first to know when they’re having a sale.
- Some great online websites with good deals are:
- BradsDeals – Subscribe to their email list and you will receive emails on the latest deals. Move fast though, because a lot of these deals are time sensitive and go away before you have a chance to take advantage of them.
- Groupon – Subscribe to their email list and you will receive emails on the latest deals.
- Jills Steals & Deals – This is on the Today Show. They really are good deals on high end items. But beware – the items take a very long time to be delivered. Last year I purchased a bunch of beautiful scarves through Jills Steals & Deals. It took probably 6 weeks to finally receive them. They were gorgeous though.
- Amazon.com – Can’t say enough about this site. I do probably 80% of my Christmas shopping with Amazon. They offer Free Super Saver Shipping – any item that indicates it is eligible for Free Super Saver Shipping offers free shipping as long as your order adds up to be at least $35.
# 6. PLAN TO SHOP AT PLACES WHERE YOU HAVE FOUND GOOD GIFTS IN THE PAST
Nobody wants to spend an entire day shopping and fighting the crowds only to come home with 1 or 2 gifts to show for it.
- Have a strategic route in mind with your list in hand before you start your shopping expedition.
- Handmade ornaments, crocheted items, knitted gifts, needle point.
- Think consumables for that person who has everything. Everybody has to eat – homemade breads, gifts in a jar, jams, cookies, etc.
- Pick a good picture for your Christmas card early in the season so you’re not rushing at the last minute trying to take a relaxed looking family snapshot.
- Order copies of your picture or make your own card using your picture through an online photo website such as Snapfish.com or Shutterfly.com. You can also upload your picture and have them printed out at your local drugstore such as Walgreens, Rite Aid, and CVS.
- Only mail Christmas cards to those closest to you.
- Email an electronic card to the rest.