Black Friday has come and gone, thus signaling the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. From figuring out the perfect gift for each person to actually finding time to shop within your busy schedule, this time of year can spread more stress and anxiety than holiday cheer. It doesn’t help that in the days leading up to Black Friday, participating stores broadcast messages announcing amazing, “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it!” sales, which make it seem like if you didn’t do your holiday shopping Black Friday weekend, you’ll go broke doing it later.
Gross sensationalism aside, if you do shop smartly — which isn’t to say that shopping on Black Friday is or isn’t smart — you will be able to avoid spending more money than you should or are able to spend. Here are five tips to help you get great holiday gifts while on a budget:
1. Sales, Sales, Sales
There’s no doubt that some Black Friday deals are incredible, but as any regular shopper knows, sales are always in season — so take advantage! Some department stores, like Neiman Marcus, even have daily online sales during which customers can get anywhere from 50 percent to 75 percent off selected items. Vendors frequently have great sales happening in-store and online, so be sure to stay in the know. Follow brands and stores on Facebook and Twitter, and join email lists to receive updates on upcoming sales and exclusive promotional codes.
2. (Flash) Sales, Sales, Sales
Online shopping continues to flourish, providing customers with quick shopping experiences that are easily accessible from computers, tablets and smartphones. Flash-sale sites have further enhanced online shopping by helping customers purchase quality items at discounted prices. Since they’re flash sales, the sales last for only a limited amount of time, but they’re constantly replaced with great new offers. Sites worth checking out include Gilt, Haute Look, One Kings Lane and Open Sky.
3. Avoid Debt
One foolproof way to stop yourself from spending more money than you have is to pay for your purchases with cash or your debit card. Do not use your personal credit card for any holiday shopping. Sales associates will try to convince you to open a charge account with the store, and while the promised discount on your purchases is certainly alluring, it’s definitely not worth it in the long run, when old holiday debts rear their heads and start chomping away at your savings.
4. Don’t Procrastinate
By waiting until the last minute to complete your holiday shopping, you back yourself into a corner, financially and expressively speaking. Last-minute shopping means you’ll have to settle for less-than-ideal gifts you may not have wanted, and you’ll likely have to pay more than you had hoped since you won’t be able to shop around for the best deals. Give yourself time to find sales, and if you’re shopping online, this allows you to go with the free or cheapest shipping option, instead of paying a bunch of money for rush delivery.
5. Make a List
This is the most important step. Figure out your gift recipients and write down how much you’re willing and realistically able to spend on each person. Include people who get cash tips at the holidays, such as the doorman, housekeeper, mailman, etc. After your list is complete, stick with it, and don’t go over the amounts specified. Keep your receipts to make sure that your holiday spending remains on track. Happy holidays!
Do you have any tips that have served you well? How are you approaching your holiday shopping this holiday season?
Harrison Kratz is the Community Manager at MBA@UNC, the online business degree program offered through the University of North Carolina. Harrison also sticks to his entrepreneurial roots as the founder of the global social good campaign, Operation: Social Santa. When he’s not working, Harrison switches his focus to great food, watching any sport that’s on TV, all things Disney, and traveling. You can find Harrison on Twitter: @KratzPR.