How to Stick to Your Holiday Budget

Submitted by Betsy Muse on Mon, 12/16/2013 – 10:45

Holiday shopping can put a huge ding in your budget if you aren’t careful. Follow these strategies to help you stick to your shopping list and keep your savings in tact. 

Before you hit the mall

  • Make a master gift list – Before you ever start shopping, you should make a master gift list with ideas for every person you think you might buy for. Include teachers, coaches, secretaries, bosses and even those who will host you over the holidays. It’s great to brainstorm multiple ideas for each person so you have a backup gift idea in the event you can’t find your first choice.
  • Check sales circulars and watch your mailbox – This is the time of year when sales circulars and coupons for stores you don’t often visit are no longer considered junk mail. Start collecting them in November and watch expiration dates.  Keep them stored with your master gift list.
  • Check online coupons – Online coupons can be found on product websites, Facebook and a large number of coupon and deal sites. A simple Google search will often return available discounts for the products on your list if you haven’t received coupons in the mail or your inbox.
  • Make a shopping list each time you go out – Make sure each shopping trip has a purpose. Carry a list with you. It can be your master list with already purchased items marked off, or it can be a shorter list with specific items targeted for the stores you plan to visit. Make sure you stick to your list and head straight to the area of the store that carries the items on your list.
  • Communicate with family – It is extremely important that you communicate with others who are buying for the same people on your list. This can help avoid duplicate gifts and it can help when you are hunting bargains. My mother and I help each other keep an eye out for sale prices on our gift list items. She’s in a larger, more affluent retail market and has a better selection at nicer stores. This helps when shopping for my teen daughters. I’m in a more rural area with great stores for gardening and outdoor living items. I am able to find much nicer, more utilitarian gardening and birding items. Tag team shopping works great in this situation.
  • Use shopping apps – Shopping apps and price check tools can save you a lot of time by eliminating the store-to-store shopping grind. You can find the best discount on Amazon using the discount finder on ConsumerFu. Other shopping apps include ShopAdvisor, RetailMeNot, and Flipp.

Fight FOMO

Most of us have experienced the fear of missing out while shopping. Sometimes we experience the feeling over items we didn’t previously have a desire to own simply because they are available at a greatly reduced price, or we see other shoppers rushing to snatch something up before the store runs out. Here are a few strategies to help you avoid caving to the temptation of impulse buys.

  • Give yourself a pep talk – This may sound silly, but it is simply another way of saying you should be proactive in protecting your budget. Remind yourself of your financial goals and share them with anyone who is going shopping with you.
  • Take a physical reminder to help you stay within your budget – Make a note at the top of your list. A bold, “NO IMPULSE BUYS,” printed at the top of your list may be all you need to keep your shopping on track.
  • Don’t let impulse buys make it out of the store – If you find a deal you simply can’t resist, go ahead and put it in your cart. Walk around the store to give yourself time to reconsider. Do you or someone you love really need this amazing bit of awesomeness? Is it really the deal of the century or did other shoppers and the store display do a number on your common sense?
  • Include returns in your shopping strategy – If that amazing object makes it through the checkout line and into your car, once you get home hide it in a closet and store the receipt with it. Make it very easy to make returns because chances are, that amazing bit of awesomeness isn’t the deal of the century and you will regret your purchase within a day or two…if not sooner.

Reconsider and Return

This one is very simple. Once you have finished making your purchases, go back over your list. Did you wind up with two of something because you forgot you had already made the purchase? Put one in the return pile. Did you buy too many spare hostess and teacher gifts? Put them in the return pile.

If your gift list winds up being bigger than your budget it may be time for some tough choices. Don’t be afraid to take the gifts back and rework your list.