Americans spent $35.3 billion during the holiday season last year. Shopping for gifts may mean fighting the crowds at your local mall, surfing retailers’ websites endlessly or rushing through the store on Christmas Eve for the last gift on your list. For many, the holidays are a stressful time both personally and financially. Those who shop with a strategy, however, can save themselves the stress and spend less money on great gifts. By following a few simple tips, you’ll have happier holidays and avoid the fiscal hangover that often lasts well into the New Year.
Last minute gift shopping: heading to the store, hurrying through looking for potential gifts, worrying about finding the perfect gift, waiting in line and paying any price for it. Has this ever happened to you? Does this happen to you every year? It’s a strategy that’s stressful for you and your wallet.
To save time, stress and money, make a plan. Before major holidays, create a list of people for whom you plan to buy gifts and how much you can afford to spend on each. Spend a little time brainstorming potential gifts for each recipient. If you have a general idea, you can comparison shop, watch for sales and buy gifts for much less than retail price. It helps to make several shopping trips throughout the year instead of one major shopping spree. You will be able to keep perspective on how much you’re spending, avoid building up a large balance on your credit cards and feel less overwhelmed with the pressures of buying the right gift for the important people in your life.
For those in your outer gift-buying circle –landlord/tenant, coworker, neighbor, etc. – stock up on basic gift items that you can buy in multiples or bulk at a lower cost. Lotions and soaps are appropriate gifts for almost anyone; candles, picture frames and photo albums are also good choices.
Flash-sale sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and RetailMeNot, to name a few, can be perfect for gift buying if you know what you are looking for. If you plan to buy a watch for your brother and jewelry for your mom, you can watch the sites throughout the year and buy when a discount on that item becomes available. It’s an advantage for you because they will only think you spent too much.
When it comes to the presentation, you do not have to spend a fortune. Post-holiday sales are the best time to stock up on wrapping paper, gift bags, gift tags, bows, ribbons and holiday cards. You can add a creative touch without adding to the cost; wrap in brown paper and decorate any way you like with stencils, stamps or other art supplies. Go green and wrap in newspaper; give the comics a second life.
You can turn simple, inexpensive gifts into perfectly personalized, thoughtful ones. Consider a personalized basket of gifts with a common theme suited to the recipient. For those who appreciate a good wine, you could include a bottle of wine, two glasses, some gourmet crackers and maybe some chocolate. You can likely save by finding discounts on the individual items and create a gift that’s more than the sum of its parts.
Yes, it sounds tacky, but it can benefit the giver and the recipient if done correctly. The rules for successful regifting: only give to someone who will truly appreciate the gift. If you can’t imagine buying it for someone else, don’t regift it to him or her. Only new, unused items are eligible. Tacky is anything used, obsolete, personalized, or accidentally regifted to the original giver. Don’t use the holidays as an excuse to give away the clutter in your closets. However, if you have a bookworm friend who would appreciate the novels you received but never had time to read, you already have the right gift for the intended recipient.
For the person who has everything, consider giving an experience instead of an item. Giving concert tickets, museum memberships, or spa gift certificate can bring memories to the recipient instead of adding clutter when you don’t really know what to buy. Here is an opportunity to be creative and personal with your gift by tailoring the gift toward the recipient’s interests and preferences. Brewery tours, craft shows, sporting events, anything; giving this kind of gift reminds a person to take time out of a busy schedule for what he or she enjoys.
Many savvy shoppers fall into the retail trap when buying gifts because they don’t apply their money-saving habits when purchasing gifts. Consumers often feel pressured to spend during the holiday season to find the perfect gift or to impress coworkers, neighbors, family and friends. Shopping last-minute causes many to spend more than intended, especially when the gift-shopping is combined with travel plans, party preparations and family affairs. Saving money on buying gifts isn’t being cheap; it’s being smart with your money. Planning ahead and thinking through each purchase means you will also give more thoughtful gifts that are well suited to the people who receive them.