Want to save money shopping this holiday season? Today’s guest post by freelance journalist Ivan Serrano begins our countdown to Christmas with these five budgeting tips.
With Thanksgiving only a week away, Americans are already shopping for the holidays.
According to the 2014 Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey (.pdf), the average American is expected to spend $718 on holiday gifts alone. In addition, one-fourth of Americans plan to spend more on holiday shopping this year than they did in 2013.
While many Americans are planning to spend more during the upcoming holiday season, consumers are still looking for ways to save. Ninety-six percent of Americans believe discounts will be important for their purchasing decisions this year according to Accenture.
As you plan for the upcoming season, here are five tips to help you budget money for the holidays:
Set a short term savings goal for the holidays
Although Christmas is just over a month away, there’s still time for consumers to save some extra cash for holiday shopping.
Take a look at your budget and determine where you can cut back on costs. Are you able to sacrifice a meal out with friends? Can you give up your morning latte? Figure out if there are things you can remove from your budget to create more of a cushion for your holiday shopping.
Another thing you can do is set aside $50 or $75 from each paycheck between now and Christmas. While this might not seem like a lot, you’ll be able to accumulate a few hundred dollars over the upcoming weeks.
Compare prices before you buy
To guarantee the best deals this holiday season, it’s essential to compare prices before making a purchase. Especially if you plan on purchasing a tablet, TV, or even a bicycle, it’s important to find out which stores will have the best price.
According to Accenture, 71 percent of consumers are already “web-rooming”. This means people are comparing prices online before they go into a store to make a purchase. By simply doing some research before you go to a store, you’ll be able to get the best value on your holiday purchases.
Take advantage of loyalty programs and coupons
Take advantage of as many rewards programs, coupons, and discounts as possible this holiday season. While it might take a little bit more effort, you might be surprised at the number of holiday savings opportunities you find. You can also take advantage of different apps like Ebates and Ibotta to earn cash back on the purchases you make.
Use credit wisely
If you plan on using credit cards for your holiday shopping, it’s important to create a strategy. While credit cards can be helpful for making large purchases (like a new iPad or computer), it’s important not to make a purchase unless you know you can pay it off in January. Only use a credit card if you plan to pay it off within the next month.
Don’t wait until Black Friday
While it might make sense to wait until Black Friday deals, research by Accenture reveals nearly 20 percent of people have already spent $100-500 on holiday gifts. In addition, 18 percent of consumers believe they can find the best discounts before Black Friday.
This holiday season, do your best to start shopping early. This will give you more time to compare prices and find the best deals on products.
The most important thing you can do this holiday season is to create a budget and stick to it. While it might be tempting to take advantage of last-minute deals, you’ll be thankful you didn’t spend the extra money once 2015 rolls around.
Questions: What other budgeting tips do you have for saving money during the holidays? Have you already started your Christmas shopping?
Ivan Serrano is a business, personal finance and social media journalist living in the Bay Area in California. He can be reached on Twitter @IvanSerrano55.
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