Holiday Shopping Countdown

The holidays are fast approaching and it’s time to start planning or you could find yourself frazzled and rushing around last minute, which would certainly put a damper on your holiday cheer.

Don’t be a rash shopper swarming to the sales without a purpose. Before you step foot into a store you should have a plan of action. Because after all, it’s not only about the sales it’s about matching the right gifts to the right people and, at the same time, getting the best possible price. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you have to purchase it – don’t be the type of shopper that justifies buying because of the price, you’ve heard it said before: “It was such a great price I just had to buy it.” You don’t have to buy it, you’re being “impulsive” and that’s a bad word around holiday shopping time.

With that said, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of holiday shopping preparation.

Set a budget: In the best case scenario you’ve been saving for six months to a year for your shopping. This way you have the money set aside rather than charging it all on your credit card. In either case you should set a realistic budget and stick to it. Think long term, it’s not financially wise to pay off holiday gifts over the next year, the interest payments alone make it nonsensical. Also, remember to consider other bills that have to be paid during the holiday, you don’t want to leave yourself short.

Do research: Check out the local paper and sites on the Internet to get breaking information on new sales. You can also go online for coupons and to compare prices. Try to find the best deals. Your research should allow you the freedom to get into the stores you plan on shopping at and find the items you want without hassle.

Create a plan: Once you have your budget in place and you did your research it’s time to plan out the day. Make a list of all the people you are buying for and the corresponding gifts you plan to purchase for them. If possible have back up gifts just in case the originals don’t work out. If you can’t find gifts on sale or at an ideal price for some people then leave them for another day. And remember, stick to your plan; don’t get overwhelmed by the excess, it will only lead to impulse buying.

Shop with a mission: You should treat shopping like a military operation – go in, find the target items, purchase and get out. There’s no time to dawdle; there may be hard-to-find items, or items selling quickly and if you start to linger then you’ll lose out on the sale.

You may feel comforted by the fact that most people will get sucked into the shopping maelstrom, but because of your pre-planning and research you’ll be moving like an efficient machine. And at the same time you’ll be saving money and finding the best possible gifts for your friends and loved ones. That will keep the holiday spirit alive.

About the Author

The following post is from Kathryn Katz, a Certified Personal Finance Counselor who works for Consolidated Credit in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Their non-profit agency helps families through financial crisis using credit counseling, debt consolidation and financial education.