FatWallet.com features Holiday Spending Tips from Steven Smith

shoppingWith the holiday shopping season quickly approaching, the time to prepare is now! Outside of putting together your shopping list and holiday spending plan, consider how you can save money this season.The American Research Group says the average consumer will spend $854 on holiday gifts alone, up 32% from average planned spending in 2011. By the time you factor in holiday parties, annual traditions and extravagant meals, American consumers will spend over $1000—a shocking number most would prefer reduce. Spending Management Expert, Steven B. Smith, recommends the following tips for extra savings this season:
Make Your List and Check it Twice: Just like Santa, it pays to make a list—and double check it. Think about each person you need to purchase a gift for and the amount you usually spend. As you brainstorm ideas for each person, think about what might be on sale and where it might be the cheapest. By making a list, you can avoid the last minute panic attack that often has us all overspending our budgets. Shop early so you have time to find a good price on the item rather than making the close‐at‐hand but way‐too‐expensive split decision. And return to your list to check it twice, as extra sales pop up and fresh ideas present themselves.

Family Spending Cap: Get family and friends to agree to only spend a certain amount per person this year. By setting a reasonable cap, you will not feel obliged to spend more than you have and can rest assured your family will not expect you to. Or instead consider a name exchange to eliminate needless overspending. For Larger families, switching from purchasing everyone a gift to a name exchange can save hundreds of dollars per family!

Don’t wander off track: Emotions can get in the way of good judgment when shopping for loved ones and friends. Combined with the “holiday spirit,” advertisements and crunched time, it’s easy to get off track. Instead, commit to sticking with the amount you allocate to each “envelope” (person on your list). Consider using a budgeting tool to keep on track.

DIY Gifts: Nothing shows how much you care about a person like a homemade gift. DIY gifts and baked goods make great hostess gifts, office gifts or gifts for casual friends. If you do plan to make gifts that require hours of time and attention, be sure to get started well ahead of time. No matter what you are making, baking, or creating, aim to finish it well before the 25th. Shop around for the best deals on craft supplies—craft specialty stores tend to offer the lowest prices of the season on Black Friday and throughout December.

Economical Shipping Methods: If you plan to purchase gifts online or by catalog, start early. By shopping on Cyber Monday or towards the beginning of the season, you can still use economical shipping methods. The later you wait, the more likely you are to have to pay pricey overnight shipping costs to ensure gifts arrive by Christmas Eve. For out‐of state family and friends, consider having the gifts wrapped by the store and delivered directly to them, saving time and money in the end.

Most importantly, remember that the “holiday spirit” is not about shopping, buying expensive gifts or pushing through crowds at stores. It’s about spending time with family and friends—the giving of yourself—which doesn’t cost a dime.