Hit the Stores: How to Shop Smart This Holiday Season

ShoppersThe Holiday Shopping season is about to kick off. And it is an easy time to blow your budget fast, but with a little common sense and planning you can still cross everyone off your list without going broke.

Pull out the cash, and forget the credit cards. “You won?t rack up debt if you limit your spending to cash purchases. It is estimated that credit card users spend 60 percent more than they planned to. If you use cash, you’re forced to budget yourself,” advises certified financial planner and president of Trilogy Financial Services, Jeff Motske.

Make a plan. “Nothing intentional happens without a plan. Make a list of the people you want to buy a gift for and set a spending limit for each person,” says Chris Hogan, personal finance expert and speaker for Ramsey Solutions.

Take the whole gang out.
Group events are a great option, says Motske. “Take your family to a movie or play or an outing in a park,” he says.

Save early. Start putting money aside for your Christmas shopping early in the year. “Save a little bit each week starting in January so you are prepared,” suggests 18-year-old Eva Baker, who runs a personal finance website for teens called ?teensgotcents .com.

Always be on the lookout for a deal–all year round. “Shop the sales and clearance racks throughout the year with the money you are saving. One year my mom and I got my grandparents a beautiful frame with spaces for pictures of their grandchildren. We bought it in July and it was on clearance for less than $5! We printed the pictures ourselves and they loved it,” says Baker.

Give of yourself. “We all know that the best gifts are the gifts money cannot buy. Most kids really just want more of us. Our time. But, we also know that kids do like presents. So, for example, wrap a “trip to the baseball game next summer” certificate with a baseball or t-shirt representing your child’s favorite baseball team,” says Susan Beacham, CEO of Money Savvy Generation.

Many people think re-gifting is a no-no, but it is becoming a common practice. “Re-gifting is a way to make sure no one’s gift is left unappreciated. Just make sure you know who gave you the gift so you do not unintentionally re-gift to that person. This is a great way to take care of hostess gifts during the holiday,” notes Beacham.

Do the gift card. There will be some people on your list that a gift card will be perfect for. Gift cards can not only save you shopping time, but you won’t buy an unwanted or unappreciated gift. “You probably have people like teachers, babysitters, newspaper carriers and doormen on your list of whom to buy for. You can save yourself a lot of guesswork by getting gift cards. Plus, it?s a great way to stick to a budget. But only buy gift cards from reputable retailers. Cards sold through online auction sites might be stolen or counterfeit,” advises Stacy Turner, founder of Pebble Beach, Florida-based Turner Advanced Financial.

Shop smart and avoid hidden fees. “The average person plans to do 40 percent of their shopping online (according to the NRF). ?When you?re using the Internet, you need to be especially careful, or you could end up paying for something you don?t want,” Turner points out. “These types of hidden fees can really add up, so make sure you read the fine print before agreeing to buy anything.”

Monitor prices.
“Start building a list and tracking all the products you?re interested in,” says Marlena Sarunac, marketing director of? mobile shopping tool PoachIt. ?”Monitor their prices. And compare coupon codes across merchants! You can find the exact same branded sweater across multiple merchants for different prices and different coupon codes. We often see examples where a merchant offers a product for less money but at a higher shipping cost?It truly pays to do the math.”