A recent survey found that Americans plan to spend more than half of their total holiday budget on non-gift items like holiday decor, entertaining and gifts for themselves. While incorporating these expenses into your holiday spending plan is smart, it’s easy to overspend in these areas and break your budget while wrapping up the rest of your gift list.
Fine-tune your holiday spending by avoiding these common gotchas and start the new year without a massive credit card bill.
1. Self gifting.
According to the National Retail Foundation, nearly six in 10 Americans plan to buy gifts for themselves, spending around $140, up 4% from last year and marking the second-highest level of personal spending in the survey’s 13-year history. If you get in the habit of buying a gift for yourself every time you pick one up for a loved one, you’re going to find yourself over budget and in debt. When you find yourself reaching for an impulse self gift, give yourself 24 hours to consider the purchase. Chances are the urge to buy that unnecessary present will pass and you’ll save yourself big bucks. Alternatively, you can add the item to your wish list and help a loved one with their holiday shopping!
2. Indulging in decor.
Many consumers get swept up in the holiday spirit and indulge in new decor to deck their halls. If you already have bins full of lights, ornaments, garland and other holiday tchotchkes, don’t buy more before Christmas. Wait until Dec. 25 passes to pick up a few new decor pieces for next year when you can expect to save over 70% in most cases.
3. Missing out on savings.
The holiday season is filled with promotions of all kinds and if you don’t know where to find the best deals, you could miss out on major savings. Sign up for retailer newsletters to get coupons and learn about upcoming sales events. Create a new email so you don’t get bombarded with such offers though! Use money-saving apps like Coupon Sherpa to get coupons right to your phone or check their online database for offers from popular retailers such as 20% off with a JCPenney coupon. Lastly, it’s important to track price drops with MyAlerts.comso you know when to request a price adjustment on any gifts that you buy that go on sale shortly afterwards.
4. Spending more to save more.
A popular promotion offered during the holidays, the “buy more, save more” deal often compels shoppers into spending more money than they planned. Such tiered offers as $25 off $75 or $50 off $150 are designed to make you think you’re getting a better value when you spend more, but you actually save the same percentage in most cases. Instead, spend what you planned and enjoy whatever savings you receive as a result. And whenever you see that slogan, remind yourself that when you buy more, you spend more!
5. Opening a new store card.
An additional 10 to 20% off your purchase tempts many shoppers into opening a new store card, especially during the holiday season. However, this savings strategy is anything but smart; store cards carry low credit limits and high interest rates which can prove dangerous to your credit score if not carefully managed. Plus, you’re likely to buy more during that transaction to benefit from the limited deal. Unless you shop with the store frequently and can commit to paying off balances in full each month, it’s best to avoid these cards. While paying with cash is the best strategy to stay on budget, sticking to one credit card that provides cash back or miles and earn rewards faster is another good option.
6. Overstocking stockings.
Most shoppers don’t budget for stocking stuffers as they do regular presents that go under the tree, yet these small gifts can put a dent into your spending. Make a plan of how much money you will spend per stocking for your family members and don’t waste your money buying junk just to fill it! To keep your budget in check, consider making little gifts to fill out stockings. You can make a small ornament with a favorite picture or bake a few small treats to supplement the gifts you purchase.
7. Picking up extra gifts at checkout.
Checkout aisles are stocked with all sorts of impulse buys because retailers know shoppers can’t resist festive fuzzy socks, coffee mugs and scented candles. While they’re cheap, these small purchases of $1 here and $5 there can add up quickly and eat into your budget. Distract yourself when checking out at any store by reviewing your haul for unnecessary impulse buys, updating your gift list or checking in with your shopping budget to ensure you’re still on track.
8. Buying more to get free shipping.
While free shipping is a popular promotion, more online retailers are requiring minimum order thresholds of $50, $75 or even over $100 before free delivery kicks in. Spending more to qualify for free shipping means it’s not free. Look for free site-to-store pick-up options or sign up for a free 30-day trial at ShopRunner for free, two-day shipping from hundreds of popular stores like Eddie Bauer, Express and Lord and Taylor. Otherwise, wait for Free Shipping Day on December 16 when hundreds of retailers waive minimum order requirements, offer extra discounts and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.
9. Racking up debt to pay for gifts.
A new survey conducted by MagnifyMoney found that more than one in four Americans plan to rack up holiday debt and many of those shoppers expect they will take three months or more to pay it off. Accepting that you’ll go into the debt for the holidays is a dangerous kind of complacence and something that shouldn’t be taken so lightly! Instead, determine what you can afford and boost your budget by shopping the sales, using coupons, stocking up on discount gift cards, re-gifting gently-used products or even selling items for extra cash.
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Andrea Woroch is a money-saving expert who transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers by sharing smart spending tips and personal finance advice. As a sought-after media source, she has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, Today, CNN, Dr. OZ, New York Times, MONEY Magazine, Consumer Reports, Forbes and many more. In addition, Andrea’s stories have been published among leading publications and sites such as Yahoo!, AOL Daily Finance, CNN Money, Huffington Post, LearnVest and New York Daily News. Check out Andrea’s demo reel or visit her website at AndreaWoroch.com for more information about booking an interview or requesting an original written article. You can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook for daily money tips.
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