Overspending and the holidays seem to go hand in hand, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be that way. I know, I know, we want to show the people we love that we care by giving them thoughtful and sometimes expensive gifts. However, we have to remember that once the holidays are over, we are the ones stuck with a credit card bill we can barely pay off. Some of us will even dig into our emergency savings in order to *gasp* pay that holiday debt. Let’s not get crazy here folks, avoid hitting the panic button by holiday shopping the right way.
In order to shed some light on how we should shop sensibly this holiday season, I interviewed Don Batsford, retail expert and co-founder of ShopGala, an online store coupon codes and promotional codes provider for online retailers.
What is the best and smart way to plan financially for the holidays?
Don: Stay focused. People tend to overextend themselves when they don’t stay on target. Concentrate ahead of time on building a list of people you want to buy gifts for. Then you can create a budget of how much you want to spend for each person. Think of thoughtful gifts you want to buy each person within that budget. Ideally, you will write down ideas throughout the year and then refer to those ideas during the holiday season. If you stick to shopping for only what you need to buy and staying within your budget you will save money.
What are some of the biggest mistakes people do during the holidays that gets them into trouble?
Don: People get into trouble when they are supposed to be buying gifts for friends and/or family and they end up buying things for themselves. It’s very easy to fall in love with shopping during the holiday season and ending up buying a ton of stuff for yourself that you don’t really need. Instead, take note of the things you like by adding them to a wish list and let people know about your list when they ask you what you want for the holidays.
Can you save yourself if you are already getting into trouble or is it too late?
Don: Return extra items now. Even if it’s a great deal, return it if you don’t really need it. You can always buy it again later if you find you can’t live without it.
Where can consumers find the best savings?
Don: There are terrific savings all the time. You just need to know when you see a good price or discount code. Also, don’t be afraid to use eBay or CraigsList to buy things. Very often you will find huge savings on items that are still brand new.
Coupon codes are a great way to find discounts for many of the most well know sites on the internet. Coupon websites like Retailmenot.com and Shopgala.com consolidate these deals together and allow shoppers to see who is running an aggressive deal at any given time. If you are looking for a particular item, comparison shop. Find out who sells the item the cheapest and include shipping, taxes and any promotions when checking prices.
What are some strategies a last minute shopper can use to shop efficiently for friends and family? Online? Any special techniques they could use?
Don: To find the perfect, gift look for hints in their social media profiles. For example, pins on Pinterest may suggest clothing interests, likes on Facebook can help with favorite authors and check-ins on Foursquare can tell you what restaurant they would love a meal from.
Organization can be key during the holidays. If you are comfortable with Excel, create a simple spreadsheet with names and gifts. This way you can keep track of all the items you need to buy and for whom. You will see in front of you what you have purchased and what you still need to get.
Are there any online sites they can help organize gift lists?
Don: Sites like MyRegistry.com allow users to combine existing wish lists or add products from disparate sites. There are also some great apps for your phone and/or tablet including mGifts or GiftShopper.