The month between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is a time filled with expiration dates. Both for budgets and diets.
The holidays, as merry as they are, come with expensive expectations like large, festive dinners and gift buying (are we really sure it’s better to give than receive…) that can drain a bank account quickly.
So, how does one prepare at the last-minute for the coming holiday spending spree? Well, there’s a hack (or ten) for that.
Make a List and Check It Twice
It would be imprudent not to start with this status quo recommendation. It’s as boring as a hanging Christmas lights, but the best way to maintain holiday shopping control is to create a gifting budget, make a list of gift recipients and know what gifts you’ll give them.
Once you’ve done this, it’s safe to proceed, and you’ll be amazed at how much time and money you save.
Strategically Schedule Shopping
Not all shopping days are equal. For instance, some days offer better deals than others and you can save money by knowing where to go and when.
Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday (November 25) offer the biggest deals, but also the biggest crowds.
Small Business Saturday (November 26) is when many of your local mom and pop shops will offer their best sales of the season.
Cyber-Monday (November 28) is the online retail version of Black Friday. Strongly consider taking a personal day from work.
If, by the end of this four-day money saving marathon, you’re not done, Green Monday (December 12) is another solid shopping day for deals.
Patience is a virtue, though, and those who can hold out until the week heading into December 25 may see the best deals all year, especially if the holiday shopping sales aren’t meeting Wall Street’s expectations.
Buy discount gift cards from your favorite stores, and then use those gift cards to buy actual gifts for friends, family and loved ones. You know, the deals where you can buy a $100 gift card and get a free $25 one added to it.
Be a Digital Detective
If you see the perfect gift at one store, scan the barcode and these apps will let you know how that price compares to online retailers and other brick and mortar stores in your area. Some apps even let you set alerts to notify you when that perfect gift meets your perfect price.
Coupon 21st Century Style
Remember clipping coupons from the Sunday paper? These are the (significantly) better versions of that:
- Download Ibotta to your phone and find immediate discounts and rebates on items you already buy from your favorite stores, restaurants, grocers and movie theaters when you scan receipts with your smartphone camera. These discount and rebate savings can go toward holiday gifts.
- Get immediate in-store and online discounts to thousands of retailers with even more coupons by using the RetailMeNot website or app and SlickDeals. These sites are great for finding gifts or, as above, getting things you already buy at a discount and putting your saving towards holiday gifts
- Before Cyber-Monday, download Chrome’s Honey to your computer to get applicable discounts, free shipping and holiday promotions automatically applied to your holiday shopping buy.
Email Hack Shopping of Yore
It’s not as slick and fancy as an app created by a Silicon Valley neo-genius, but this strategy works because retailers know that in the cyber-world email addresses are crimson and gold.
Go to the websites of popular stores, such as Macy’s, Target, Nordstrom and H&M, and subscribe to their email lists now. Throughout the year and especially during the holidays, retailers offer email subscribers coupons, discounts, promotions and free delivery straight to your inbox.
Just Say “No.”
In order to say “yes” more you need to occasionally say “no”. Prioritize your holiday celebrations and be at peace with RSVP’ing no to a few. That way you can attend the parties that mean the most to you without stressing about your busting your budget.
Redefine What the Holidays Mean to You
The annual choir of voices that denounce the commercialization of the holiday season is as much a tradition as “Naked Santa” runs. As Michael Jackson sang, change starts “with the man in the mirror.”
It’s all about taking an introspective selfie and then making that change.
The best holiday memories aren’t gifts; they’re the experiences we have with friends and family. Redefine what the holidays mean – less commercialism, less eating and less spending. Seek ways to have more meaningful experiences with the ones you love.
With these tips, you’ll skate through this holiday season better than Nancy Kerrigan through the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
David Auten and John Schneider are authors, bloggers and speakers for DebtFreeGuys.com and host of Queer Money. Their mission is to build a financially strong queer community.