I vividly recall working in retail on several Black Fridays when I was a college student, and the memory of that experience haunts me to this day (perhaps a future blog topic). Honestly, I believe that the more things change, the more they remain the same even though today people can shop from the comfort of their homes thanks to smartphones and computers. Despite these technological capabilities, there are still those parents willing to camp out in a store parking lot for the opportunity to purchase their children (and occasionally themselves) the toy of the season. Looking back over the years, I remember the great lengths that people went through to purchase one of these much sought-after toys:
- Easy Bake Oven
- Chatty Cathy
- Pet Rock
- Rubik’s Cube
- Teddy Ruxpin
- Cabbage Patch Kids
- Tickle Me Elmo
- Tsum Tsum
Regardless of the era in which they were popular, these toys share a common trait in addition to their immense popularity. More often than not, shoppers who purchased these must-have items and paid premium prices to do so.
Through proper planning and a utilizing a realistic budget, you can alleviate much of the stress associated with holiday shopping and diminish the probability of overpaying for gifts. Here are a few simple suggestions to assist you along the way to remain focused, relaxed, and solvent this holiday shopping season.
Set a Budget – Consider how much money you can afford to spend without affecting your day-to-day household budget and without taking on debt. Then decide whether to pay cash or use credit. Experts recommend using cash so shoppers “see” the money they are spending, which, in theory, discourages them from overspending. If you must use credit, pay it off as soon as possible and shop for a credit card with low rates and rewards. Two phone apps in particular that help shoppers generate a budget and track their spending are Santa’s Bag for Apple products and Christmas Gift List for Androids.
Use a Shopping List – Create a shopping list and allocate a portion of the budget for each person on it. Arming yourself with a gift idea or two, will save time and allow you to take advantage of specials and unadvertised sales wherever you shop. Panic buying as time runs out can be costly.
Shop Year-round for Gifts – Frequently, the best way to remember one’s gift wish is to record them on a smartphone or write it down as soon as they mention it. Shopping year-round serves two purposes – it eliminates the stress of generating a gift idea, and you have the luxury of purchasing the item at the time, place, and price of your choosing. Purchasing end-of-season items is an excellent way to save money and begin shopping for the next year.
Take Advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals – Although these opportunities have seemingly come and gone for 2017, retailers no longer define these days in absolute terms. Today, the discounts associated with these particular days can last for days or even more than a week. Utilize smartphone apps and websites such as Pricegrabber.com, Shopping.com, and Shopzilla.com to compare prices and generate coupons for gift items. Often retailers will match prices so be sure to ask whether they do.
Create Your Gifts – Lastly, if you are struggling with gift ideas or you are running low on money, utilize your imagination and talents to create gifts. Chances are you have a skill that others appreciate such as baking, cooking, sewing, crafting, or taking photographs. Etsy and Pinterest are valuable sources of inspiration and ideas for home gift making. Nothing says you care about a friend more than when you invest your time creating a meaningful gift. If this crafty approach does not appeal to you, consider purchasing food items in bulk and creatively repackaging them as individual gifts. These smaller packages are also convenient for those who stop by unexpectedly.
As I end this post, I see that my Tamagotchi beckons for food and attention so best wishes for surviving the holiday shopping season.
By Brian Sweigart, Business Development Coordinator