Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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Don't Let the Holidays Break You or Your Wallet

One of the biggest shopping seasons of the year is just a few days away. Already, stores are advertising Black Friday sales and no doubt the masses will be lined up waiting to take advantage of those elusive, annual deals. And Black Friday is just the kickoff for a four-week shopping frenzy.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype with advertisements all over the place – television, radio, internet, and the stores - and family and friends feeding into the mass marketing. Just like stores are gearing up to get you to spend, you must gear up to avoid overspending.

Set a spending limit to avoid going broke during the holiday shopping season – or any shopping time for that matter. Before you hit the stores, know exactly what you're prepared to spend. If you’ve been saving throughout the year, then you probably already know what you have available. Otherwise, review your budget to see what you can afford to spend this holiday season. You may have to divide your shopping based on your pay periods and shop a little every other week until you’re done.

Make a list of the family, friends, and co-workers that you're shopping for. Set a spending limit for each person based on your budget. Remember to adjust your budget if you end up going overbudget on a single gift. For example: if you plan to spend $200 for 5 gifts, that's a $40 budget per person. But if you purchase a $50 gift for one person, that leaves you with $37.50 to spend on everyone else. Shop with your list and cross off gift recipients as you purchase their gifts.

Research gifts online before heading to the stores.There’s less pressure so you can take your time and be more thorough with your shopping. Browse the websites of stores near you and if you find a gift you like, you can go directly to that store and pick it up. Some websites even tell you whether the item is currently in stock at your nearest store. Make it even easier by printing a picture of the item you select.

Look online for coupons and other deals. This is a good practice even outside the holiday shopping season. Many stores have smartphone apps you can download and use to access coupons even when you’re in the store. The cashier can often scan the coupon or enter a code to give you a discount. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can visit the store’s website, print coupons from home, and take them with you. Check often because deals can change daily.

Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, is the best day for shopping online. As the day approaches, you’ll see more stores advertising their offers. Some even offer free or cheaper shipping. If you want to avoid Black Friday crowds, wait for the Cyber Monday ads. Sign up to receive emails from your favorite stores and you can catch the deals sooner. Just make sure you unsubscribe after the holidays, otherwise you’ll be swamped with emails throughout the year.

Use cash or a prepaid debit card. When you use a credit card or even your regular debit card, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending. But, if you stop by the ATM and get cash before you shop, you’ll have a concrete idea of what you’ve spent and what’s left. And, if you get big bills, you’re less likely to break them on frivolous purchases.

Shop when you’re in a good mood. You’re likely to spend money as a pick-me-up if you dread shopping or you’re sad or angry. Having a positive attitude about your shopping trip can keep you focused and ward away the need to spend money on mood-boosters. While you're out, take breaks, stop for lunch when you get hungry, and don’t wear yourself out. You can make much better purchasing decisions when you’re well-rested and well-fed.
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Tuesday, 20 August 2019

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