Whether it involves camping in a store parking lot for Black Friday deals or racing other parents for that last hot-ticket toy, just about everybody has their own nightmare holiday shopping story.
Let’s be honest: holiday shopping has the potential to be awful. You have to brave crowded malls, overpriced items, and the same Christmas carols playing on repeat. But your shopping experience doesn’t have to be that way.
Try these tips to shop smarter and have a much happier holiday experience.
Table of contents
- 1. Plan ahead
- 2. Shop online
- 3. Save your money for Cyber Monday instead of Black Friday
- 4. Keep track of price changes on expensive products
- 5. Use online coupons
- 6. Take note of holiday shipping deadlines
- 9. Avoid credit card debt
- 8. Use cash or your debit card if you’re not shopping online
- 9. It’s okay to buy the same gift more than once
- 10. Buy not just gifts but also experiences
- 11. Group your shopping trips
- 12. Shop via smartphone to save more money
- 13. Avoid shopping during weekends
- 14. Shop alone if you can
- 15. Don’t always use the express line
1. Plan ahead
The best way to avoid last-minute unnecessary expenses is to plan your shopping spree. Make a list of all the people who you’re planning to buy gifts for, and set a limit for your total spending budget. Buying presents is fun as long you don’t lose all your money after the holidays.
2. Shop online
Online shopping is fast and convenient because you don’t have to spend time and gas money in driving around the city from store to store just to buy all the gifts for your friends and family. Just remember to order ahead of time because because overnight shipping can be much more expensive than standard shipping. After all, online stores know that as the holiday season approaches, more people will be placing their orders!
3. Save your money for Cyber Monday instead of Black Friday
Sure, you may find some pretty crazy deals on Black Friday, but when you factor in the gas you use to drive to the store, the time you spend waiting in the cold out front before they open, and the time spent fighting the crowds and waiting in line to make your purchase, is it really worth it? This year, try shopping on the Monday immediately after Thanksgiving. This is the day when online retailers promote big sales, so you can save while shopping from the comfort of your own home.
4. Keep track of price changes on expensive products
If you’re planning to shop gifts at Amazon, you can set up a tracker through websites like The Tracktor or CamelCamelCamel. You can check out past prices of the items you’re shopping for in order to determine whether now is a good time to buy or if you should wait for the price to drop.
5. Use online coupons
Avoid the hassle of clipping coupons and shoving them in your wallet until you can get to the right store by using online coupons. Many sites help you quickly search for and redeem deals for products sold in online stores. Dealhack is an example of a high quality deal-finding website that tests and scores thousands of coupons and online offers every day.
6. Take note of holiday shipping deadlines
If you ordered your gifts online and want them to arrive just in time for Christmas, then make sure that you order them at least one week ahead. Most stores offer standard shipping of 5-7 business days after placing your order. Since most major online brands and retailers use standard shipping carriers such as FedEx, USPS, and UPS, it’s a good idea to keep track of their shipping deadlines so you’ll know when you should start placing your orders online.
9. Avoid credit card debt
Credit card debt gets higher during the holiday season, because people tend to spend more credit than they can pay off before the next due date. You should also try to avoid applying for credit cards from department stores because they aren’t really necessary. Always keep track of your expenses because you don’t want to be paying additional charges.
8. Use cash or your debit card if you’re not shopping online
If you already have credit card debt before the holiday season or you just prefer to shop in physical stores, it’s better to use cash or a debit card. Cash is convenient if you can find an ATM near the stores that you are planning to visit. This means you can withdraw a fixed amount of money based on your budget plan and you won’t be tempted to buy additional things based on impulse. A debit card is also a good option to prevent overspending because you won’t be charged above your spending limit — just make sure you have enough money in your checking or savings account when you checkout.
9. It’s okay to buy the same gift more than once
Sometimes there are people on your list who want the same gift, and that can actually help you save money and time! Keep an eye out for stores that offer “Buy 1 Get 1 for a discounted price” deals because it’s a more cost-efficient method of buying multiple gifts for people who want the same thing.
10. Buy not just gifts but also experiences
Instead of buying material goods that your family members aren’t that excited about, consider buying a day or weekend trip that you can share together. It can make more sense to invest money in creating a family memory that will last forever than buying an item that will have a short life span.
11. Group your shopping trips
If your choose to shop for gifts at a physical store for, search the locations of all the stores you’re planning to visit and plan a route that will involve the least driving. Try to get all your shopping done in one fell swoop so that you don’t have to keep driving back out to the stores.
12. Shop via smartphone to save more money
The Amazon Price Checker app, which is available for both iPhone and Android, lets you scan the barcodes of items in a store and compare to prices of the same item online. Shopkick is another great app that rewards you just for visiting stores by offering you special discounts. Make purchases at the store and you’ll get even more points to put towards a future reward.
13. Avoid shopping during weekends
Weekends are inevitably the busiest shopping days during the holiday season. If you want to avoid long queue lines in malls and department stores, you should consider shopping during weekday evenings.
14. Shop alone if you can
While shopping alone doesn’t sound as fun as bringing along a friend, it will save you time and potentially prevent you from being influenced to make big spur-of-the-moment purchases.
15. Don’t always use the express line
Each person has to do an individual transaction, so a medium regular checkout line is often better than a long express lane line.
The holidays should be a time to relax and hang out with friends and family–don’t let yourself get stressed out by last-minute shopping expeditions.Take a deep breath, plan in advance, and shop smart this season.