Money do’s and dont’s this Christmas

Make next year YOUR year to shop smarter. Get smarter with your money, not just on what you spend on, but more importantly, how you spend.

Every person’s spending capacity is different — some have more, others have less. Since everyone’s budget is different, it’s important to tailor-make your spending according to your own budget.

Having said that, there are still some good tips to follow when it comes to Christmas shopping.

DO make a budget, and a list

You don’t have to buy everything for everyone you know. This year, make it a point to live with intention.

Wouldn’t you rather have a few thoughtful gifts from people who really know you than a whole bunch of gifts from people you barely know, just because they feel obligated by the season?

DO make another list — this time of possible gifts for people

Maybe for some people it’s nice just to go into a huge store and look around for something you like. But, there is such a thing as “decision fatigue”. The more choices you have at hand, the poorer your judgment gets.

One possibility is to check out Pinterest. Type in, for example, “Christmas gifts for under X dollars.”

This way, you already have ideas of what you can get someone based on the budget you’ve allotted for them, as opposed to having all sorts of possibilities ahead of you. It’s more efficient, and way less exhausting.

DO comparison shopping online before setting foot in a store

One of the best things about the internet is checking prices online — or you can easily fire away questions on merchants’ message pages, or, if you don’t get immediate answers, phone the stores themselves.

Customer service staff will be happy to lend you a hand. This way, you’ll know where the best prices for the gifts you want are offered.

DO put on relaxing music in your phone, and don’t leave your earbuds at home

Shopping can be a stressful experience, especially last minute shopping. So make sure you listen to relaxing music on your way to your shopping trip—whether in the car, train or bus, and also when you take a break between stores or get something to eat.

If you get stressed, you’re likely to make poorer buying choices just to get the shopping over with. Or you might just call it a day and go home, only to realise you’ll have to do it all over again.

Let some soothing music help you keep the stress away, and finish your holiday shopping in relative peace. It will help you stick to your budget, believe it or not.

Now for the dont’s…

Don’t do head maths when you’re Christmas shopping. You may have a beautiful mind (we all do!) but your brain is not only finite but is subject to forgetfulness when you are tired or hungry, or tired and hungry.

Go old school and write things down. Having a small notebook and a pen on hand will help you stick to your budget. You’ll need to be more disciplined, but the effort will be worth it in the end.

DON’T shop on weekends

Stores are way more crowded on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, especially when the holidays get closer. More people equals more stress all around.

Your better bet for holiday shopping is weekday evenings. You’ll get home later, it’s true, but at least the experience will be more leisurely and a lot less stressful.

DON’T use your credit card for holiday shopping

Try to shop with cash. While using plastic is so much more convenient, and earns you points, using only cash for your holiday shopping is one way to stick to your budget.

If you’re someone who tends to let your budget run away, stick to cash. When you do your accounting, you’ll be glad you did this.

Pro-tip: when holiday shopping, leave your credit card at home.

Some money experts actually recommend putting your credit card in a waterproof ziplock bag and then immersing it into a bowl of water that you freeze – therefore your credit card sits in a block of ice in your freezer. Why?

Because this prevents any impulse purchases. By the time the ice melts enough that you can fish your card out, you’ll have had time to think about whether you really want to continue with the purchase or not.

DON’T go shopping with your BFFs

We human beings are easily influenced by those in our social groups. It’s how we’re wired. Let’s say you’re out shopping, determined to only buy that one special gift for your significant other.

You go out with your besties, and they see a red dress that they’re sure will look simply gorgeous on you. You end up trying it on, and it does look great. Out comes the credit card, with your budget along with it.

Our friends are some of the greatest gifts we have in life. We need them. And we certainly should make time with them during the holidays. Just don’t go shopping with them. You’re much more likely to stick to your budget if you shop alone.

This article first appeared in thenewsavvy.com

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