Store shelves have given way to everything holiday.
The National Retail Federation says an increased consumer appetite to buy larger-ticket items is giving retailers reason to be cautiously optimistic for solid holiday season gains this year.
But you can celebrate the season of giving without breaking the bank. The key is being prepared. Here’s how you can create – and stick to – a holiday shopping budget:
- Make a list, and check it twice. Make a list of everyone you want to buy for and how much you will spend on them, and stick to it. Don’t forget about sales tax and shipping costs, stocking stuffers, candy, cards and postage, donations for those less fortunate, holiday parties, travel and holiday baking. “All the ‘little things’ can really start to add up. And if you have a budget before you hit the stores, you will be a step ahead of many,” says Marcie Winkelman, a Dupaco Money Makeover artist and senior lending consultant at the JFK branch in Dubuque.
- Decide what you will buy. Try to figure out what you will buy prior to shopping. Include alternatives in case you are unable to find your first choice. This will help you avoid impulse buys. Shop around the ads and online for the best deals, and make a list of what you will buy where. Online shopping is a great way to avoid lines and remove the temptation of purchasing something just because “it’s a good deal.”
- If necessary, reevaluate your budget. If you realize you don’t have enough cash to get everything you planned to purchase, consider making some of your gifts, buying for fewer people by suggesting a name exchange or just spending time together without gifts, Winkelman suggests. “You may have to pick and choose what parties to attend,” she says. “Also consider cutting back and remembering the true spirit and meaning of the season.”
- Look into different means. If you are still short, a loan from your local financial institution is going to be your best option. But only borrow what you need. Credit cards can be an option, but only if you have a way of paying them off quickly. “Stay away from putting off paying other bills such as other loan payments or utility bills,” Winkelman says. “And most importantly, stay away from payday lenders and high-risk, high-rate lenders. While tempting, they are just the beginning to a vicious cycle that is nearly impossible to get out of once started.”
Plan ahead for next year. Once you have your shopping done, consider starting a savings account now so that you will be ahead of the game next year. Many financial institutions, including Dupaco, offer Holiday Club savings accounts.
Get more shopping tips, including advice on how to navigate Black Friday.
By Emily Kittle