It's not down to the wire yet — you still have time — but holiday shopping days continue to tick down to zero hour. Are you making the most of the time you have left? Make sure that an ambitious gift list won't leave you taking on last-minute expenses like rush shipping or missing peak sale times. Keep this list of holiday shopping ideas close to help you avoid blowing a carefully-crafted holiday gifting budget.
When should I shop to maximize savings?
If you're not much of a night-owl online shopper, you may want to consider it. Some retailers activate their next-day sales after 6:00 p.m., which means you can block off some time for after work shopping without having to be an early morning doorbuster.
According to reports, you may also want to consider shopping on the traditionally slowest shopping day of the week: Tuesday. Online retailers often light up their best deals to motivate business on otherwise light-traffic Tuesdays. Additionally, early shopping on Tuesdays (or even late Monday nights) can help you score the best of the best.
How can I actively compare deals to make sure I'm getting something worthwhile?
There's no time like the holidays to practice your haggling skills! Price-matching is something that many retailers offer to ensure they can snag your end-of-year business. If you're looking around to compare big-ticket items, check with the cashier to confirm they can make good on another's advertised offer.
Your smartphone can also be a powerful tool with price-scanner apps that can capture barcodes and let you know if the same item is available elsewhere at a better price online.
Another idea for those of us who aren't gifted with incredible number-crunching skills: if you're calculating discounts in-store, don't be shy about whipping out your mobile phone's calculator function to figure out where you land. Just remember:
- Start with the lowest listed sticker price
- Then add in any additional discounts being offered (item-specific or storewide)
- Then add on sales tax as the last step
There's nothing worse than thinking you're getting something at a sweet deal until you learn you can't combine two different promotions or you forgot to include tax - especially if a bigger-ticket item is on your list for someone special.
How can I keep my cool while I shop during the holiday frenzy?
Take a tip from Santa himself: don't shop without a list! Even if you don't keep closely to it, having a general idea of what (or even just what kind) of gift you'll give can be a huge help when you're faced with a mall of overwhelming options. Avoid the decision fatigue that can set in when you leave all your brainstorming until you're trapped between crowded store shelves.
A little forethought can also help you make the most of your remaining shopping days. There are doubtless a few folks who aren't any trouble to shop for, but others will tax the limits of your thoughtful gifting ability. When you're unsure what to gift, a quick online scan of creative pinboard sites can help you search across retailers to get an idea of the right gift for the right person, helping you save time and narrow in on a great — but not obvious — idea.
For me, I work to keep the stress of the holidays away with a secret weapon: a holiday playlist that never fails to make me smile. The sounds of the season are a powerful weapon that help me refocus on great holiday memories of Christmases past and making more this year — and not losing my cool (or blowing my budget) at the most wonderful time of the year.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.