*******Please forgive me if you’re one of those people who doesn’t want to hear holiday songs until after Thanksgiving. What I suspect — based on some new data — is that you’re not in the majority. According to a survey by RetailMeNot, 60 percent of people plan to begin their holiday shopping before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Starting shopping this early means you need to be prepared. Here are a few ways to get your wallet in shape before you hit the computer or the mall.
Don’t just buy — sell
Pad your coffers by trying to do a little selling — preferably before you start buying. Gather things up from around your home that you don’t use or wear. Since it’s gift-giving season, lightly used (or event better unused) electronics, clothing and handbags may be in higher demand and therefore have a better chance of selling. You can try selling on apps like Poshmark and Mercari as well as eBay. “Making a little extra money before you start selling can help stretch your gift-giving budget,” says Jordan Barnes, Senior Director of Brand and Communications at Mercari. In 2017, consumers spent an average of $967 on holiday shopping. “The average seller made $139 on Mercari last month. That’s a nice extra chunk of change and simply from clearing out items from around the house,” says Barnes.
Use gift cards you’ve received to supplement
Unused gift cards you’ve gotten throughout the year can provide additional dollars for you to spend on others. Go through your wallets, kitchen drawers — you may even want to ask your kids if they’ve received gift cards they’re not planning on spending. That’s essentially free money. Likewise, if you’re sitting on rewards from credit cards that you aren’t planning on spending on travel, you may be able to turn them into gifts for some of the people on your list.
Channel your inner Santa
According to research from credit bureau Experian, 56 percent of people cop to spending too much during the holiday season. One of the best things you can do for your sanity and your budget is to make a list of all the gifts you’re planning to buy — and price them out — before you start shopping. Having a list to guide you as you navigate the shopping mall or the internet will help to keep you focused. “I believe that when you shop from a list — be it for groceries or gifts — you’re more likely to stay within budget and not make an impulse purchases,” says personal finance blogger Leah Ingram.
Opt for cash
The fastest way to ruin a good holiday season is to rack up more debt than you can handle. According to the survey by Experian, 31 percent of people have gone into debt from unexpected holiday purchases. Since we spend more with credit than we do with cash, try using cash when doing your shopping. It’ll help you stick to your budget since you’ll be able to see how much money is leaving your wallet after each purchase.
Manage expectations — yours included
Finally, no one wants to get stressed out around the holidays, but many of us do — and research shows the expense of the season and the gifts that come along with it is often the culprit. Ingram suggests having an honest conversation with family members about gift expectations. “For example, older siblings with children of their own might agree that from this year forward, they’ll buy gifts for the children only. That takes the pressure off for buying a gift for a brother or sister who probably has everything they need anyway, and it helps you to save money,” says Ingram. Another way you can save some money while also giving a thoughtful gift is by getting crafty. If you need inspiration, head over to Pinterest where you can find an ample supply of budget-friendly DIY gift ideas for everyone on your list.
With Hattie Burgher