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Holiday shopping tips: Smart spending, saving some green

ALLISON MILES

By ALLISON MILES
Dec. 3, 2011 at 6:03 a.m.


If the tinsel-covered storefronts and Santa-strewn TV ads hadn't yet tipped you off, perhaps children's ever-growing wish lists struck a chord.

Whatever the case, the truth remains that the holiday shopping season is here.

Nationwide, people will spend an estimated $465.6 billion during November and December, according to a National Retail Federation news release, while individual shoppers expect to spend an average $704.18 on holiday gifts and seasonal items.

Looking to spend wisely throughout the holiday season? Here are some tips from those in the know.

Maintain a budget.

Know who you plan to shop for and about what you hope to spend. A good rule of thumb is to spend one-and-a-half percent of one's income on holiday shopping.

Take your time.

Planning allows you time to compare prices, review circulars, look at the selection and take advantage of deals. Avoid shopping on your lunch break, as the rush might lead to purchases you don't need. Also consider store layaway programs.

Save up beforehand.

Setting back a little money over a long period of time helps ensure you have enough cash for holiday shopping. Holiday savings clubs are another option.

Consider drawing names.

This method of gift giving can really cut down on costs, especially for those with long shopping lists.

Obey the two-day rule.

Consider purchases - especially on big-ticket items - for two days before making the plunge. Take time to determine whether you need the item and if it will throw off your budget.

Remember the extras.

Holiday shopping doesn't just include gifts. Wrapping paper, gift bags, extra grocery items and more also enter the mix. Make sure to budget for those, too.

Be careful with credit cards.

If you plan on only using one credit card, just take that one to the store with you. Also, photocopy the fronts and backs of your cards so that information is available if the card would happen to be lost or stolen.

Be smart about borrowing.

Many people opt for credit cards or loans to help with holiday spending, but remember that interest payments and finance fees might play their role. Budget for these additional costs.

Shop online or with a catalog.

It helps deter shoppers from being persuaded by the many items available in stores. Remember, however, that shipping costs often enter the mix.

Consider a second job.

Moonlighting can help bring in some extra cash during the holiday season. Better yet, working a little extra throughout the year can help you save up most, if not all, the money you'll need for holiday shopping.

Read the fine print.

Know whether you will face additional fees for late payments. It helps to be prepared.

If possible, save some purchases for after the holidays.

At that point, most items go on sale again, oftentimes at deeper discounts.

Sources: Melissa Goonan, market development representative for GreenPath Debt Solutions and American Financial Services Association Education Foundation news release

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