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Holiday List Ready? Shop Smart This Year.

Happy holidays to all! It’s an exciting time, but one that may bring some shopping stress along with it. It’s so easy to get caught up in holiday spending and go overboard. But if you budget ahead of time, look for ways to save, and stick to the plan, you absolutely can come out ahead of the game and celebrate in style this holiday season. Where do you start?

1. Make a Budget
List the people you need to buy for on a spreadsheet and keep track of the gifts you purchase as you go. Know in advance how much you would like to spend overall and on each person, and set an amount. If you need to, go through your monthly household budget, and cut down on anything that’s not particularly necessary.

Maybe you could cut down on restaurant dinners or reduce your daily trips to your favorite coffee shop? It all adds up, and it may be just enough to make the numbers work for you instead of against you.

2. Make Your Gifts
Pinterest and other internet sites offer great ideas at your fingertips. Do you have any artistic abilities, like painting, drawing or knitting? Put those skills to use. If handmade gifts aren’t your thing, consider making your own holiday cards. Plus, your card recipients will feel extra special after receiving such a thoughtful item in the mail or at a holiday gathering. Or, skip the traditional cards and send an eCard. It might not be quite as personal, but it does send the message that the recipient is an important part of your life.

3. Strategically Plan Your Shopping
It’s good to plan when it comes to both everyday shopping and shopping for holiday gifts. Consolidate your shopping to a day or two during the week and shop at a cluster of stores, if possible. This will reduce mileage (which saves gas) and save you time. But the best plan starts with a shopping list. You don’t have to get everything at once. Know your list and seize deals when you can.

4. Redeem Reward Points from Credit Cards
Do you have points waiting to be redeemed from credit cards or unused gift cards in your wallet? You can redeem most points for cash back or gift cards for your loved ones. Next year, save up your credit card rewards until the holidays so you’ll already have money for your holiday shopping.

If you must break out the plastic for that special gift or unbelievable deal, remember that a Tower World Mastercard® earns you 1.5% cash back on everything you buy. Resist the urge to put last-minute purchases on store cards with high interest rates, which may catch up with you when the bills arrive in January.

5. Look for Coupons and Discounts
Great coupons and deals can be found on websites like RetailMeNot. Browse for discounted gifts on deal sites like Groupon. Make sure you’re armed with a list of gifts you want to buy first. This savings strategy can backfire if you buy things just because they’re on sale, so use discipline to avoid overspending. Also, ask for price matches at stores.

Take advantage of relationship discounts from your favorite retailers and sign up for their rewards programs. Don’t forget about the great deals on merchandise and food at warehouse stores, like Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s. You can save money on entertaining for your holiday parties or potlucks. Some great ideas abound at our favorite stores.

6. Shop Online
If you missed out on some of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals you wanted, don’t despair. You can often get some of the best online deals shopping in December as retailers compete for your holiday dollars.

Online prices are often cheaper—and many online retailers offer free shipping and don’t charge sales tax. Shopping on a site like Amazon.com can save time and help you avoid the holiday rush around department stores and malls. It’s pretty easy to price shop your purchases these days with virtually any retailer app.

Even traditionally brick-and-mortar businesses, like Target and Walmart, offer exclusive online deals that you can’t get in the store.

If you follow some or all of the tips above, you’ll be setting yourself up for smart shopping this holiday season and a financially happier start to the new year.

Resources: U.S. News & World Report, HGTV.com, GenYPlanning.com

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