Avoid These Holiday Shopping Mistakes

/ BY / Personal Finance

Are you a Christmas shopping procrastinator? If you postponed getting presents for others until now, you may be heading into panic mode—and more prone to making some major shopping mistakes like these.

  1. Shopping without a budget.
    Without a spending plan, you’re likely to end up with holiday shopping remorse come January when the bills start arriving. So before you hit the malls, decide how much you can afford to spend on each person on your list and stick to that amount. (And if you absolutely have to spend the extra $20 to get the perfect electronic gadget for Dad, find other places in your budget where you can cut a bit.)

  2. Charging too much.
    Credit cards are easy and convenient, and it’s tempting to say “charge it” today and tell yourself you’ll worry about paying off the balance next month. But next month will come, and you will be surprised at just how much you exceeded your normal spending.

    That doesn’t mean you have to ditch your credit cards during the holiday season, however. Just keep a running total of all your purchases as you make them so there are no unhappy surprises—and stay within your budget. (See #1)

  3. Buying on impulse.
    If you love to decorate the house or entertain during the holidays, it’s hard to resist the cute decorations or holiday tableware that the stores have on display at the end of the checkout aisles.

    Or maybe you’re tempted to pick up that Christmas CD that you know your best friend will love—even though you’ve already bought your gift for her.

    Stores are in the business of selling, and they understand how to tempt you with relatively inexpensive $5, $10 or $20 items that you add to your shopping cart at the last minute. But these items can add up quickly; before you know it, you’ve spend an extra $100 or more on things that you didn’t really need or want.

    If you really want to get some new decorations or tableware, add it into your budget and look around for the best prices; you won’t always find them at the aisle end.

  4. Spending too much on non-essentials.
    Your Great Aunt Mabel may take the time to admire the present wrapped in that expensive foil paper and tied with the velvet bow. But most people—especially children—are much more focused on what’s inside the package then on the package itself.

    So skip the pricey paper and the ridiculously-priced ribbon for most of your gift recipients. You can pick up wrapping paper on sale or at dollar stores that will work just as well. Or you can get into the habit of giving people their presents in gift bags, which are recyclable; even if you don’t get to use them next holiday, maybe they will.

  5. Shopping for too many people.
    No one wants to be a Scrooge—but the Christmas spirit doesn’t require that you give presents to everyone you’ve ever known. Take a look at your gift list and see if there aren’t some people that you can remove. Sometimes we exchange gifts simply because it’s a habit.

    Maybe it’s the former colleague that you used to be close to but now see only once a year for a holiday lunch, or your adult nieces and nephews. It could be a friend that you no longer have much in common with or your adult nieces and nephews

    It’s a good idea to send an email or call anyone you’re removing from your list to let them know that you’d prefer not to exchange gifts this year. That way you’re both saved from embarrassment (and the expense). You’ll probably find that they’re just as happy as you are to stop the gift-giving.

Holiday shopping can be a lot of fun—but dealing with the aftermath of holiday spending mistakes isn’t. Take charge of your shopping now and you’ll be in good financial shape for the start of the New Year.

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