It seems like it came way to quickly this year, but next week starts the beginning of Christmas shopping for most of us! Truthfully, I’m dreading shopping this year. There isn’t really any reason other than I feel like it came too fast and I’m not prepared for it. I feel like it was just summer and now all of a sudden it’s nearly Christmas!
If you are worried about how to shop this holiday season, here are some tips on how to shop this holiday season without blowing your budget.
Know Your Holiday Budget
Before you even start shopping, the best way to avoid blowing your budget is to start with a plan. Know how much you can realistically spend this year that won’t cause you to break out the credit cards or create more stress for you. If you haven’t taken a look at your budget lately or aren’t sure how to get started, Personal Capital is my favorite tool to use to get this done. You can quickly link your accounts and track your spending in no time.
Are there areas of your budget you can reduce for the next month so you can use the extra towards your holiday spending? For example, if you cut back on eating out at restaurants or reducing your entertainment budget, for just one month, will that extra money help your holiday budget? No holiday is worth going into debt over so set realistic expectations for yourself so you don’t cause further stress later.
Know Who You are Buying For
Now that you know your holiday budget, make a list of who you need to shop for this holiday season and how much you plan to spend. If your budget is small this year, can you cut out some people on your list? If you have a big family, instead of buying gifts for everyone, can you draw names instead so you only have one person to buy for?
Instead of buying gifts for friends, why not suggest a potluck and bunco night in January or February when things have slowed down? If everyone brings a dish, the cost will be minimal and the night will be something to remember (and possibly a continued tradition for the next year!)
Once you have your list narrowed down, divide up your holiday budget among those on the list and set buying limits for each person so you stay within your budget. Keep this list with you so when you are out shopping, you have it to refer to and you don’t have to go from memory.
Know How to Find The Best Deals
Now that you know your holiday budget and who you are are buying for, here are some tips and tricks to stretch your dollar along the way.
- Deal sites like Groupon & Yelp Deals are a dime a dozen these days and they can provide great discounts on products and services, but ONLY if you need them! It may not seem like much, but spending an extra $30 or $50 each week on things you weren’t planning on can cause you to overspend before you know it.
- If you plan to use these types of sites to find gifts for the holidays, make sure you have some money in your budget earmarked for this.
- Once your done with your shopping, unsubscribe to these sites. You won’t be tempted to buy more than you need (or extra gifts for people). You can easily subscribe again after the first of the year when things have settled down.
Discount & Promotional Codes:
You know when you are shopping online and you are getting ready to check out, you see that little box that says “enter promotional code” or “enter discount code”? That means somewhere out there, there is a code that you can enter to save you money on your purchase. The trick is to find it. Here are some ways I find discount codes when I’m shopping online:
- Retailmenot.com – This is probably one of my favorite sites to find discount or promo codes. It seems to be fairly accurate and it’s easy to navigate.
- Google Search – If I’m shopping online and didn’t find a code at Retailmenot.com , my next choice is to do a simple search for “2016 promotional code x.com” or “2016 discount code x.com” where the x is the store or site name. I add the year in there too because a lot of times old expired codes will come up that don’t help me in my search and I want to filter those out.
Price Comparison Sites
All You Magazine ran an article in one of their issues with the most popular price comparison websites and why. I’ll admit, I don’t use these types of sites that often but it’s probably a good idea for me to start. Here are the best sites as suggested by All You to compare prices before you buy:
- Pricegrabber.com – You can search for an item and see its price history for the past 6 months.
- Google.com/products – This site is customizable and it allows you to narrow your search to new products, items with free shipping and create a shopping list and share it with your friends and family.
- Bizrate.com – Not only can you search for products online, you can see reviews and current coupon codes from this site
- Slickdeals.net – A great forum where you can interact with other people for the best deals
- Nextag.com – There’s a lot going on on this site, you can see the price history for a product and even find discounts on hotels, flights and cars.
Earn Cash Back When You Shop
Would you like to earn cash back when you shop, with just a simple click? Of course you would, who wouldn’t! Ebates is my favorite site for earning cash back when I shop. It’s literally so easy to do, there is really no excuse for not doing it! I wrote a detailed post on how to make extra money with Ebates that explains how the whole thing works. I can’t stress this one enough, using this site can save you a lot of extra money AND help you find the best deals!
Check for Free Shipping Codes
Never pay for shipping without at least looking to see if there is a free code! You can check for free shipping at:
- Retailmenot – In addition to having promo codes, Retailmenot also lists free shipping codes.
- Free Shipping Codes – Nice list of free shipping codes
Use Discounted Gift Cards
Buying discounted gift cards is a great way to pay for your purchases. A few sites that offer discounted gift cards are :
- Giftcards.com – Buy & sell discounted gift cards & personalize gift cards
- Cardpool – Buy gift cards for up to 35% off or sell gift cards for 92% cash back
- CardCash – Buy, sell & exchange gift cards
Bonus Tip: Use Tools to Quickly Pay Down Debt
I already mentioned Personal Capital as a way to track your spending. If you want an easy way to start paying off your debt, give Qoins a try. Qoins will round up your purchases to the next dollar and pay off your debt, fast. Once you link your account(s), you simply make purchases as you normally would. Qoins willl withdraw your “spare change” throughout the month.Watch your debt disappear as they automatically make an extra payment for you each month. Payments go out each month by the 15th, consisting of the previous month’s spare change. There is a $1.99 fee taken each month out of your spare change, however the savings in interest reduction can easily offset this fee. Read more about how the company works here.