Black Friday has some great deals! And Cyber Monday’s sales are stupendous! By late November, the deals are all around you and life is awash in blinking “sale” signs. We all love a good deal and have a budget we have to plan around, so shopping these sales seems like the logical choice right? Get a good deal and get the shopping done so we can focus on other things like spending time with family, mailing out greeting cards, and baking delicious holiday treats. But watch out! There are still ways that shopping early can derail your plans for an easy, frugal holiday.
The Sales Keep On Coming
Everywhere you look there are more sales, all December long. Every time you set foot in any store, turn on the television, log into your email, browse online, or even walk down the street in a commercial district, the sales are begging you to shop them. And since retailers really want your cash they are offering some legitimate bargains. “Oh look, little Johnny has been wanting that train set and it’s 50% off now! Mom would love that sweater!” Being constantly bombarded with sales may make you want to buy another gift that the recipient may legitimately really like, but alas, you have already bought them a gift. If you want to keep your budget in check, return the item you already bought or pass up the new sale.
Pre-Purchase Leads to the Illusion of More Available Money
You planned and budgeted your Christmas shopping money, carefully saving all year to be able to afford those special gifts for those special people. Once those gifts have been bought and the savings depleted, we bask in the momentary glory of our budget victory. Our November and December regular monthly budget hasn’t been touched! Then come the remaining weeks before Christmas when we begin to shop again, using our regular monthly budget to add supplemental gifts because we think we can afford it since we weren’t feeling the pinch. Remember, you set a gift budget and saved for a reason. If that reason was to make sure to not overspend so that you can keep paying off debts or save for a family vacation, don’t put those plans in jeopardy just because you’re feeling jolly.
One for You, One for Me
When everyone else has been taken care of, it is quite customary for our minds to drift back to ourselves. That list has everyone and everything checked off, you feel a sense of accomplishment, and when walking out of the mall you spy those shoes that would be a perfect gift for yourself. Self-gifting is a concept that retailers love and are doing a heavy marketing push for this year. After everyone’s gift is bought, don’t fall into the trap that now is the time to buy yourself something shiny and new too.
Just how do you avoid these early shopping budget pitfalls?
Take your Christmas Gift Shopping List with You.
Whenever I see a brilliant gift idea for someone, I look at my list. If that person is crossed out and their gifts have been purchased, then I jot down the idea on the back of the list for next year. Sales are cyclical and that item will be on sale again next year.
Watch Out for the Greed Trap
When shopping for others we can often get greedy and desire new gifts as well and so we go out and buy them for ourselves. But that can lead to budget busting and guilt, especially when we realize we were cheap about a gift we gave someone else and look down at our more expensive new shoes. Remember to enjoy the concept of gift giving for what it is, giving a gift to someone because it will bring them joy or fill a need they have. Side stepping a feeling of entitlement and focusing on the gift giving can allow you to walk out of the store without extra gifts for yourself. Besides, most of us will also be receiving gifts this year and not filling our homes with gifts we bought ourselves will allow us to appreciate the gifts others bought us, and allow us to keep from having to make a lot of returns because they gave us just what we wanted and which we had already bought ourselves. And if that thing we really wanted isn’t under the tree this year? Well, that’s what after Christmas sales are for.
Track Your Spending
On my Christmas shopping gift list I put next to each person’s name what I intend to buy them and how much I intend to spend to stay on budget. When I buy them an item, I jot down what I bought (because sometimes I change my mind and get them something else entirely) and the amount I actually spent (because hopefully it was on sale and under budget!). Then I keep tallying up that total so I can see how much I have spent on each person and as a whole. Seeing the numbers right in front of me helps to curb excess spending.