If Walmart and Target are your holiday timeline benchmarks, then it’s safe to say Christmas is here. Because the shopping season between Black Friday and Christmas, retailers are starting early.
As you shop this season, I offer you three tips to ensure you stick to your budget and survive the season without debt.
Get Your Christmas Budget Organized Before You Shop
Planning creates awareness and reduces the risk you will overspend. Know who your shopping for and what your spending limit is. Ideally, you’ll break down your limit by person. Make sure to include everyone you’re shopping for. For example, are you planning to give your child’s teacher, the mailman, or your boss a gift? Include them in your plan.
Consider any gift-giving deadlines you have. Are you in-laws holding a gift-giving exchange the week before Christmas. Ensure you plan enough time to shop before the event, so you’re not rushed. Rushing will create an environment of desperation, which often leads to overspending, as well as a lack of judgment in gift selection.
My favorite planning tool is Trello. I use it for everything, and it is my go-to to plan all my Christmas needs. I can roll it over year after year with little effort. Whether you’re a paper planner, or use Trello, or Evernote, or an Excel spreadsheet, make sure to use it and to execute on your plans.
Earn Money While You Shop
If you prefer to avoid the crowds and do most of your shopping online, there are a few resources that will earn you money back, effectively increasing your gift-giving budget, or earning you cash to buy yourself a reward for sticking to your budget.
Rakuten (formally eBates) is a website to earn cashback while you shop at specific retailers. You can almost always earn money at Best Buy, Amazon, and Target through Rakuten. I recently received over $50 back when I bought a new computer. Make sure you check Rakuten before you go directly to your favorite website.
Do Your Research
Don’t shop blindly. Instead, do it with intention and do your research in advance. Beyond looking at Rakuten, Top Cash Back, and Mr. Rebates for options for cashback, look for sales. The Christmas shopping season is ripe with sales. You have the hat trick of shopping – Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.
Blackfriday.org and cybermonday.com are both guides to the best sales for both shopping days. Check out your local paper for sales at local businesses. Your local news and Facebook events are both excellent resources to identify holiday festivals that are full of gifts from local vendors. If you do attend a festival, don’t hesitate to negotiate, especially as you get closes to the holiday or if you visit close to closing time on the last day of the festival.
Happy shopping, friends. Stay strong and stay on budget.