It seems that almost as soon as you’ve handed out your last piece of candy for trick or treating on Halloween, Christmas and other festive holiday decorations, music and promotions begin. Is your budget ready for the holidays?
While admittedly, it seems a little soon, getting prepared for the holiday season long before it is in full swing is an excellent way to keep your holiday spending on track.
“Ideally, it is best to be able to shop a little bit at a time throughout the year, so that you can spread the expenses out and pay for things in cash. Even if you are only getting started now, it’s not too late to put a budget in place to keep your spending under control. Time is still on your side,” says Jeff Schwartz executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.
“As a rule of thumb, try to leave all plastic at home when you are holiday shopping and make this a cash-only activity. If you engaging in online shopping, treat it like cash and only purchase what you can immediately pay off on your credit card,” says Schwartz.
Set a comprehensive budget
Lay out what you can afford to spend (in cash) on holiday spending. When you are setting your budget, in addition to gift expenses, don’t forget to include a number of other holiday costs that really add up, like wrapping, cards, décor, parties, babysitting and extra taxis/parking.
Make sure that your budget, rather than your gift giving list determines your spending limits.
Set a schedule
Plan your shopping trips out and space them out over time if you can. This helps support the cash-only habit; it also gives you time to make rational spending decisions. Impulse decisions almost always lead to overspending.
Make a list and check it twice
You’ve probably made a list of gift recipients, but this year you are going to dig a little deeper, in an effort to save money. List the budget per person, possible gift ideas, best stores/retailers to get gifts, as well as additional savings opportunities per item (i.e. coupons, promotions, etc.).
This lets you plan in detail, which will translate into more savings.
Always, always comparison shop, especially for bigger ticket items. Having this extra time to shop will allow you to do that. Don’t spend more than you plan on extra warranties, delivery and bonus features. Resist the upsell.
Get in the habit of doing an online search for a given item or for a specific retailer to see if you can find coupon or promo codes, which can stretch your dollars further. Follow your favourite retailers through social media and get deeper discounts.
Black Friday/Cyber Monday
With the Canadian Dollar continuing to be weak against the U.S. Dollar, Canadian retailers will be taking advantage with promotions to keep shoppers north of the border. Expect to see deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday but don’t limit yourself to just that day.
Depending on what you are looking for, some product categories begin to drop in price as early as the beginning of November. The best way to know for sure is to know what you are looking for and how much it costs regularly in order to determine if you are getting a good deal.
Many retailers will offer “sneak peeks” of their deals in the week prior to Black Friday, so pay attention.
Online Shopping Tips
Be careful when you are shopping online, as fraudsters try to capitalize on the extra virtual traffic. Only buy from sites that you trust and that display that they use encrypted software for your protection.
Shop around to find retailers that offer free shipping (many do this time of year), which can reduce your costs even more.