Holiday Shopping

shopping bagsFor those of us who love shopping more than anything else, the holiday season is a blessing. Not so much if we have to do it on a budget, however, and most of us indeed have to restrict ourselves to a certain amount of money to avoid piling up debt. Especially if you have a big family and many friends whom you want to make happy for the holidays, gift shopping can turn from a blessing into a curse. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to go through this with as little financial pain as possible and still succeed in making everyone happy.

Start by calculating what’s the maximum amount you can afford to spend without depleting your wallet. Having a budget and, more importantly, sticking to it will save you the nasty surprise of discovering that you’ve spent twice the money you planned on gifts. So, sit down with a pen and be realistic, counting only on money you already have. As for sticking to this budget, try to use more cash than credit cards. Hitting the shops with a certain amount of cash and temporarily forgetting that you own a credit card will help you resist that otherwise irresistible scarf or game console for one or another of your nearest and dearest.

Talking about friends and family, you’d be smart to draw up a list of the people you will be shopping for this holiday season. Once you have your budget, it’s time to allocate it, right? The good thing about having set the amount of money in advance is that it will make it easier for you to “filter” the people for whom you really want to buy presents. Alternatively, instead of trimming your list in case there’s not enough money to buy a present for everyone on it, you could reconsider the size of the presents and go with something smaller. A gift is still a gift, no matter how small. It’s the thought that counts — cliches are cliches because they are more often than not true. Apply your creativity to come up with the perfect — not most expensive — gift for every person that means something to you. It shouldn’t be too hard, although it would take a bit more time than just going on a shopping spree in the nearest mall.

Okay, you have the list and you have the money. Now it’s time to do a little research to find the best bargains, making sure you don’t pay too much for something you can get for half price. This, too, takes time but it’s worth it, no question about it. It’s very likely that you’ll be doing at least some of your shopping online, if not all of it, so browse the sites and find the offer that suits you best. This browsing can also help you with ideas about gifts, and it’s financially safer — remember, you have temporarily forgotten you have a credit card.

The final piece of advice for holiday shoppers is just a reminder. It’s something all of us probably hear every year and still fail to follow. Start early. Waiting until the last moment is the surest way to bankrupt yourself, because, you know, there will be simply no time for you to do all the things we discussed above. Set budget, make list, browse for ideas, then just up and go. Hopefully, you won’t be getting your second cousin a live turkey or a lemon meringue pie that needs eating quick. Then again, if a lemon meringue pie is her favorite dessert, then why not make one yourself, instead of buying?