Five steps to take before heading to the stores this season
While some of us (this humble blogger most certainly included) do everything in our power to avoid seeing the inside of an actual, physical store during the holiday season, for many others the season just wouldn't be the same without that in-person shopping experience. In truth, there are quite a few great deals you may only be able to access in stores, making such trips worth your while.
However, it is also true that visiting stores during the holidays can be quite treacherous, especially if you don't take steps to limit your spending. That's why it's so important to prepare yourself ahead of time, before you've even left the house. Consider the following five ways to safeguard against holiday overspending.
Create a plan – Knowing who you’re shopping for, what items you hope to find, and most importantly, how much you intend to spend is critical to a successful shopping day. Commit in advance to stick to your plan, and enlist an accountability partner if necessary, as it is very easy to be caught up in the excitement of the moment and get off course.
Know what you currently owe – Review all existing debt obligations, tallying what you’ve already spent and committed to repay. This reality check may put a temporary damper on your holiday mood, but that’s better than digging the financial hole even deeper.
Find the best deals at home – Shop from home before heading for the stores. Compare prices online, as well as local circulars for sales in your area. Be aware of time restrictions, as some prices may only apply during certain time periods throughout the day. Once the actual shopping begins, going directly to the store which has your item at a good price will save you time, gas, money, and frustration.
Remove all unnecessary cards from your wallet – Spreading purchases across multiple cards makes you feel as though you’re charging less and can trick you into overspending. Designate one card for holiday spending, and remove all others from your wallet. This will not only help you stay within your budget, but will also lessen the damage in case of loss or theft.
Beware of special credit card offers – Issuers are tempting consumers by offering incentives such as no interest balance transfers, extra perks by meeting certain spending levels, and increased cash back in specified categories. However, no deal is a good deal if you can’t afford it. Responsible shoppers will commit to spending no more than what they can repay in full when the bill arrives, regardless of how many bonuses are tacked on.