With holiday shopping here, it’s time to get serious about your budget and gift list. Likely, you’ve already heard about supply chain issues and shipping delays and what those issues may mean for holiday shoppers. But what else should you be focusing on to make things go more smoothly for you and your wallet?
To find out, GOBankingRates, interviewed various financial and shopping experts. Here are their top strategies for saving on holiday shopping this year.
Get Granular With Your Budget
“Be as specific as possible when creating your budget,” said consumer analyst Julie Ramhold with DealNews.com. “If you’re noting the gifting part of your budget, make sure you detail who you’re shopping for as well as how much you can afford to spend on each person.”
Open a Christmas Club Account
“This may be too late for 2021, but you can still open a savings Christmas account, so that next year you’re more prepared,” said Karen Ford, master financial coach and author of the No. 1 Amazon bestselling book “Money Matters.” “Place $100 in it each payday — or you determine the amount you plan on spending on Christmas next year — and divide that up by 52 weeks, and place the set amount each week or each payday.”
Study the Ads
“When making your holiday shopping list (and budget) peruse those [holiday] ads in great detail. If there are items you’re planning to buy, be sure to note the retailer, when the deal starts, and what the price is meant to be. Consider saving a link to the ad in a spreadsheet along with what page the deal is on to get hyper-organized (and in case you need to double-check later on before purchasing),” Ramhold said.
Join Loyalty Programs
“Plenty of stores have loyalty programs that are free to join, and have at least a free basic tier that will provide rewards,” Ramhold said. “Be sure to sign up for these as you could be earning points or other perks on all your purchases during the holiday season which can then translate to immediate savings or discounts later on down the road.”
Sign Up for Emails
“Retailers often announce their sales to their loyal customers first, so if there are retailers or brands that you plan to shop with, sign up for their emails so you’re in the know,” said Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at Truetrae. “This is a good money-saving strategy, but it could mean a lot of clutter in your inbox. Instead of providing your regular email address, set up a free Gmail account just for promotional emails. Another option is to follow your favorites on social as sales are often revealed on social platforms as well.”
Find Deals on Hard-to-Locate Items
“Some gifts will be tough to find this year,” Bodge said. “A good way to find those items is to set a deal alert for them on Slickdeals because retailers often have sales once a shipment arrives so they can sell through that merchandise. If you don’t receive a notification and time is getting tight, you can try posting an inquiry on a Slickdeals message board. They have a very active community of deal seekers that has been helpful in finding elusive items.”
Skip the Shipping When You Can
“Shipping delays are practically guaranteed this year,” Ramhold said. “Most of us are already seeing them in our personal lives, and the holidays are still weeks away. Remember that the USPS has increased shipping costs through December 26, but they’ve also slowed target delivery windows by about 30%. While some items might not be expected, others will be, and for retailers who are trying to bypass those higher costs, UPS and FedEx might be the next best option.
“Unfortunately, that could mean their systems encounter strain, as well, if more consumers and retailers opt to use them instead of the USPS. All that to say, shipping is going to cost more this year, and with delays, and there’s not necessarily any reason to pay more for expediting as it won’t be guaranteed to arrive on time. Instead, try to avoid shipping when you can, and shop in person instead.”
If you can’t avoid shipping, Bodge suggested choosing to ship gifts directly to the recipient at checkout instead of having the gifts shipped to you first to wrap, which will allow you to save on additional shipping fees. If you’re worried about gift wrap, here’s her advice: “Many sites and stores offer gift wrap, which even if you have to pay for it, will be far less expensive than shipping fees,” she said. “If no gift wrapping is available, just let your recipient know that a gift is coming and not to open until the big day! Estimated savings $8-$20 per package.”
Pay With the Right Credit Card
“No matter where you shop, you’ll want to be sure you’re scoring the best deal possible,” said Rebecca Gramuglia, consumer expert at TopCashBack. “Look at your credit card’s rewards program to verify any increased cash-back rates or exclusive offers at certain stores. This will help you determine the best place to shop for gifts in order to get the most out of your holiday spending. And once you’re done shopping, you can then use the cash back earned as statement credit or toward other rewards depending on your card’s terms.”
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