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Shopping during the holidays can take a bite out of your wallet if you’re unprepared. If you’re like most Americans, you can expect to spend about $1,500 on holiday shopping this year. If you want to avoid that hefty sum coming directly from your paycheck, consider tackling your shopping bit by bit, months in advance. That way, you can glide into the holiday season stress-free.
Why Shopping on Major Holidays Can Be Difficult
You may feel immense stress during the holidays. Whether you’re stretching your budget to include presents for everyone or taking on the burden of hosting for your family, you will encounter some obstacles and difficulties during the season. The stress is exactly why you should be thinking about minimizing holiday chaos as much as possible right now.
When holiday shopping, you throw yourself into chaos to find the best deals, potentially blowing your budget just to show people you care about them. It can take a toll on your mental health to try to do everything at once, and your physical health may suffer due to a lack of rest. By completing your shopping early, you minimize the chances of second-guessing your options — because you’ve already bought for that specific person. Still, you can save something else as a gift idea for them in the future.
Staying ahead of holiday shopping — even months ahead — is the best way to plan for the season. Rather than taking on everything a few months before, you can stretch your paychecks along the way to prepare yourself for hosting and giving gifts to others. Staying ahead of your shopping is the best way to snag the greatest deals while putting your mental and physical health first.
7 Ways to Stay Ahead of Holiday Shopping
Holiday shopping can be difficult, especially when you try to stuff it all in under a month. Luckily, there’s no limit to when you can start preparing for the next holiday season. Start preparing for the holidays now, and you’ll have a smoother time managing your money and keeping your stress levels low as the holidays approach.
1. Use a Cash Envelope
One way to budget for your holiday shopping is to use cash envelopes. Using cash everywhere can make you think twice about spending money on something you don’t need or a gift that’s less than perfect for someone. You can save a certain amount of cash every month, and it can help you make decisions throughout the year. Alternatively, you can tuck the money away and pull it all out at the end of the year without stretching your current month’s budget further to make room for gifts.
2. Keep Your Eye Out for Deals
You should start shopping far enough in advance to grab the greatest deals. However, you might have to watch an online listing for a while to see if the price changes over time. That way, you can be a savvy shopper who’s getting the best deal they possibly can.
One of the best ways to watch out for deals is to get an add-on for your web browser. Certain extensions, like Honey, can scour the web for coupons you can use to bring your prices down, while others, like The Camelizer, can give you the price history of item listings on Amazon. Move your holiday shopping onto your laptop or desktop rather than your phone — it might be worth your while!
3. Buy One Thing Per Month
Depending on how many people you have to buy for during the holidays, you might be able to buy one thing per month. While this method can’t encompass your immediate family if you typically buy a lot of gifts for one another, it can work well for everyone else on your list. If you space your gifts out by just buying one or two a month, you’ll have all your gifts ready to be wrapped by the time the winter holidays roll around.
4. Utilize Credit Rewards
When applying for a credit card, you must remember to use it wisely. Try not to spend more on your credit card than you can pay in a month. That way, you can manage your money well and reap the benefits the card might give you.
The rewards on a credit card give back to you and sort of “reward” you for making purchases — and you might be able to redeem these points for gift cards or airline miles. Designating your holiday purchases to a credit card might stop you from buying more things, as you might in-store, and show you exactly where your money goes.
5. Set Spending Limits
Establishing your budget far ahead of time is an excellent way to get a hold of your funds. If you don’t have a budget, create one — it’s the best way to achieve your financial goals. Once your household sets your budget for the year, you can see how much will go to holiday spending. Set a limit on how much you’ll spend on each person. By setting your spending limits months ahead of time, it’ll be easier for you to stick to them than if you waited until the last minute and panic-bought presents.
6. Let It Sit
Many people impulse shop when stressed or upset because they need the excitement and happiness that comes with the “newness” of something. Some people might buy gifts for others impulsively, too — that way, they can justify it in their mind as it being a gift, not senseless spending for themselves. To squash the thought of impulsive spending, you need to let things sit in your cart for a day or two.
When you let something sit in your cart, you usually have time to decide whether you really want it or it’s just an impulse purchase. It can also give you a chance to look elsewhere for a gift for that specific person. If you find something that fits them better, great! Either way, the item will likely still be available for purchase after you let it sit for a bit.
7. Cut Down Your List
Sometimes, you just don’t have the funds to buy everyone a gift — and that’s okay. Any of your loved ones should understand that you care for them. They don’t need a gift to prove that you love them and enjoy their company. If you still want to give them something, consider offering baked goods as a holiday surprise to your loved ones instead of expensive gifts.
Alternatively, making DIY gifts is a sentimental way to show people that you care about them, even while you’re on a budget. You can collect the materials over time, then create the gifts for those you care about but can’t allot a specific budget for store-bought gifts this year. Your recipients might like these heartfelt gifts much more than anything you could’ve purchased from a store!
Make Holiday Shopping a Year-Long Commitment
A year of holiday shopping? That might be the last thing you want to do, but it can pay off. You don’t have to be holiday-minded the entire year, but always keep your eye out for something that fits within your budget for someone else. You may just find it cheaper than you could toward the end of the year. With the proper amount of planning, you can significantly decrease the amount of stress you experience during the holidays. That way, you can enjoy the end of the year in peace.
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