Published on 11/16/18

Make a list, check it twice when spending during the holidays

By Michael Rupured

The holiday shopping season starts earlier every year. Competition from online businesses is forcing brick-and-mortar retailers to open earlier and stay open longer. Before Thanksgiving dinner has been reduced to leftovers, shoppers will hit the stores in search of bargains.

Serious bargain hunters get excited about big sales on Thanksgiving and the day after. To make the most of the big day, hardcore shoppers sort through advertisements and go online to compare prices. They plan to hit stores for time-specific sales and map out routes to cut down on time wasted in traffic or looking for a parking spot.

And then there is everybody else. More and more consumers are avoiding the chaos altogether by shopping online. Others get caught up in the moment and join the spending frenzy with no plan or shopping list.

Shopping smart is important every month, but the stakes are especially high during the holiday season. Starting your holiday shopping early helps. With a little forethought, even procrastinators can benefit from these shopping tips from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

  • Plan holiday spending. Regardless of economic conditions, piling up a lot of holiday debt is never a good idea. Know how much money you can reasonably afford to spend. To avoid financial problems in 2019, limit spending to the cash you set aside for the season. Your holiday spending plan is not just about the gifts you plan to buy. Remember to budget for parties, greeting cards (and postage), charitable giving, clothes to wear to holiday functions and other things that make your holiday season joyful. Overspending can ruin the holidays and the following months. Plan ahead and stick to your plan. Spending only as much as you can afford will make the holidays better for you and your family — even if they do not receive everything they wanted.
  • Be creative. Remember that it’s the thought that counts. Homemade gifts may be appreciated more than something purchased at the local big box store. This could be food, clothing or even a creative craft. Gifts of time for babysitting, car washing or house cleaning may also be well received.
  • Use ads to plan your purchases. Find the best deals by comparing what different stores have to offer. Once you decide on a specific item, it’s important to compare features, quality and prices as well as any extra charges for installation, delivery and service. The cost to use and maintain an item may make selecting a more expensive model the cheaper option.
  • Conserve gasoline. Why use up gasoline by running from store to store? There is no need. Finding information has never been easier. Use your phone and internet. Instead of shipping a gift to yourself, order the desired product for direct shipment to the recipient.
  • Check classified ads for items, too. Person-to-person buying often saves you money.
  • Expect to pay a fair and reasonable price for goods and services. Bargains that sound too good to be true usually are. Be sure to read labels, seals, tags and instruction booklets. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Get the facts before you buy. Find out what is promised, who stands behind the promises, and what you must do to benefit from any warranty. Return a purchase that is damaged, did not hold up to reasonable wear or otherwise failed to live up to the guarantee.

For more information about saving money, contact your local UGA Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agent by calling 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

Michael Rupured is a financial specialist with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

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