I’ve written many, many posts on affordable holidays and holiday shopping. Why I even compiled an entire e-book on the topic. But, if you’re revving up for a big shop, here are my five quick tips for keeping your holiday shopping affordable.
Carry Your List with You at ALL Times
Put your Christmas gift list in your wallet or purse so it’s ready whenever you spy a potential gift. Consult your list and your budget. If it’s not in the budget, it’s not going home with you. If it’s in the budget and it’s a better gift than the item you already had in mind for recipient, then buy it and mark that person off your list.
Note Online Prices on Your List
In addition to name, gift, and budget, I also write online prices on my list, with shipping and tax added where applicable. That way I can determine whether the item I see in a store is cheaper than the item I see online. If it’s not, I go home to order it. Order your gifts by about 12/10 to ensure it will get to you or to the recipient in time. Or, if it’s a specialty retailer participating in Free Shipping Day, wait until 12/17 to order.
Remember, Stores Will Run Low This Year
If you see a perfect gift and it’s in your budget, snap it up. In past years, you could wait until later to markdowns, but the stores majorly reduced their stock this year. Most will not be offering major markdowns as the season progresses, they’ll simply be running out of stuff. Don’t be like Joey and Chandler and present your friends with gifts from the gas station because you waited to shop.
Set Aside One Weekend Morning or Mid-Week Evening to Shop
Once you’ve finished your list and determined your stores, figure out which mall has most of those stores (unless you’re lucky enough to have one mall with all the stores.) I find that a Wednesday evening in early December is an awesome time to shop. I can get in and out quickly with minimal crowds. I hit the mall closest to my office, then by the time I’m done the commuter traffic is gone so I can zip home.
If You Must Shop a Weekend Evening, Make it a Date Night
Take your spouse with you for dinner and shopping. If you have time, see a movie. Yes, the stores might be more crowded, but they’ll be open later. Just make sure you make a reservation or get to the mall early to snap up an early seating time. Two years ago my husband and I did this. We arrived at the mall at 6:30 and got a 7:30 seating at the Cheesecake Factory – the most in-demand restaurant in the shopping center. By the time we finished eating at 8:30, they were handing out 11PM seating times. We pre-shopped, enjoyed a lovely dinner, and then went back to the stores to buy our final choices. We ended up missing the movie because we didn’t want to wait for an 11PM show, but we still had fun.
And finally, when in doubt, give truffles. It’s the cheap, no-fail gift, and completely in keeping with the season: I love you, here’s something delicious and fattening.