Shopping Pitfalls to Avoid & Tips to Make the Holidays a Breeze

By April Lewis-Parks

The start of November whispers “the holiday’s are almost upon us…” while retailers scream “Start Shopping!”  For many stores the holiday season has already begun.  I went into a large chain retailer two weeks before Halloween and they were already decked out for Christmas. Trees were blazing with colored lights, plastic carolers were moving and singing, and artificial trees had sale tags hanging from their branches; I was in disbelief that Christmas has come so soon.

I adore Christmas and all of the good will, cheer, and warm hearted sentiment that fills the season, but at the same time I do not like rushing it in so early. What I do like is starting my holiday shopping as soon as possible. Spreading out my purchases over months keeps me from falling into a last minute shopping fluster and using credit cards because I’ve not budgeted my holiday shopping.    

The holiday season can be the most expensive time of the year. So I have put together pitfalls to avoid and money saving tried and true tips:

Pitfall- Buying in Bulk: Buying in bulk is not right for every family during the holidays. It is easy to get caught-up in the moment in the Big Box Stores. You go to Costco, Sam’s or BJ’s and buy everything in sight, simply because there’s so much to buy.

Tip – Stock up for the holiday throughout the months: Start scanning the sales ads and use coupons online starting now.  Begin purchasing any non-perishable food items you’ll need for holiday meals and plan shopping around coupon days at your super-market. This way you can take advantage of discounts and sales while spread out your spending over several paychecks, making budget easier when you need it most.

Pitfall –The 12 days of Christmas my true love gave to me:You haven’t found the perfect gift for that special person in your life, but you are certain that you will. Meanwhile, you’ll just pick up that handy tool he can use, some new DVDs and CDs that you think he’ll enjoy, a tie, a new shirt… and by the time you reach the end of your quest for the perfect gift, you have 20 gifts, none of them quite right, except maybe the partridge in a pear tree.

Tip – Create a list: Yes, you do need a list of people you plan to purchase presents for.  Even the most organized among us need a holiday shopping list. Use our Holiday Budgeting Guide’s tracker to help out. Include the items you want to purchase and set a budget for each person on your list now. Do your research. Look online and comparison shop before hitting the stores.

Pitfall – Balancing blowout: You get each of your children, parents, or siblings an equal amount of presents, except maybe you should get Mom a couple of extra little things, since Dad’s new HD mini camcorder cost a bundle. Now Mom has three presents and Dad only has one, so the least you can do is get him new slippers, repeat until broke.

Tip – Make a list a gift giving and check it twice:If you haven’t started your “Nice” List, now’s the time to do it! Create a list of people you plan to purchase presents for, include the items you want to purchase and set a budget for each person on your list now. Do your research. Look online and comparison shop before hitting the stores.

Pitfall-The gift you didn’t expect guilt: Your neighbor, boss, or co-worker or gives you an unexpected gift and you have already blown your holiday budget!  Rather than been seen as cheap or ungrateful, you race to the store and add yet another item to your overblown holiday budget.

Tip –Plan for the unexpected:Most people think about family members as a top priority for gift buying and leave friends, co-workers, and neighbors last on the list.  This year make them a priority so you’re not scrambling last-minute for thoughtfulness items that cost a lot money. While you are doing you day-to-day shopping at Target, Walmart or the supermarket, check out the aisles for ornaments, soaps, coffee and other seasonal items for those folks who you want to remember during the holidays. This way you’ll take advantage of the best selection and you won’t feel guilty that you don’t have a gift!