I admit, I’m usually a last-minute kind of guy around the holidays. But I’ve realized over the years that procrastinating can be costly. Not only are the best presents gone, but I’ve missed out on the best sales—and the ability to comparison shop. A little holiday preparation can save you money on gifts—and more. And who couldn’t use a few extra bucks in this economy?
1. Make a list, and check it twice. Did you know that research has proven that people who shop at the grocery store with a list spend between 30% and 40% less than those who don’t plan their purchases? The same can be said for your holiday shopping. Make a list for everybody before you hit the malls, and avoid making impulse purchases at all costs.
2. Stash away a little extra cash. Even when you’re great at sticking to a holiday shopping budget, often the spirit of the season causes generosity to beat out frugality. Pad your available cash for the holidays a bit by setting aside a few extra dollars a few between now and the end of December. This will help you avoid, or at least reduce, the amount you use credit cards to make holiday purchases.
3. Hunt down online deals, especially for big ticket items. It’s unusual these days to find big ticket items like jewelry, computers, or electronics in stores for less than you can buy the same product online. If you plan on surprising somebody special with a gift that costs more than $100 this year, keep browsing the Web for the right deal.
4. If you must use a credit card… If you’re like many Americans, your monthly budget is already stretched thin. If you haven’t been saving for holiday gifts all year, you’ll end up using credit to make the purchases. Using credit cards for the holiday’s isn’t ideal, but so long as you’re good about paying off those balances in a few months (not a few years) I don’t think it’s a cardinal sin.
If you do use a credit card for your holiday shopping that you don’t plan on repaying immediately, get a card that offers a 0% APR on purchases for 12 months or more. See recommended low interest credit cards here.
5. Finally, if you need to travel this holiday season; book now if you haven’t already! (Then, book now for next year, too). The days before Thanksgiving and Christmas are the biggest travel days of the year, and carriers jack fares accordingly; the fewer seats left, the higher the cost of the ticket. It’s hard to spend money on an airfare weeks or months before you’ll use it, but doing so could save you hundreds.