Holiday Budgeting Tips For Conscientious Shoppers

The decorations, the shopping mall and, of course, all those screaming retail deals mean it is time for consumers to start their holiday shopping.

One of the few good things about a sluggish economy at holiday time is that it underscores the need to consider what’s really essential. It’s not just about being frugal; it’s about being smart with our money. Setting financial priorities early is the best way to keep the year’s biggest spending season worry-free and most important, debt-free.

Here are some suggestions that can help you stay in line with your spending goals during the holidays and position yourself for a financially healthy and happy New Year.

Revisit your gift policy: Check your list to be sure it is current and accurate. What changes can you make? You may want to reconsider buying gifts for children who are now adults, and only buying for their kids. Are there new names to be added or removed? The answers are as individual as your family and friends. If you think it might be welcome, make a suggestion for a gift drawing or a spending limit. Try some other creative alternative where you can replace gifts with certificates for quality time or special offers to help with routine responsibilities. Older gift recipients always prefer assistance, visits, and companionship over the latest fashions.

Create a practical, money-saving gift list: It’s important to have one list that’s handy and displays everything you need to get in a single view. For some, this may mean one big sheet of paper you can write on, or a computer file that can be printed out on a single sheet, or an e-mail that can be saved in your smart phone. This way, if you spot an item on sale, you can snag it and cross it off.

Keeping gift ideas on scratch pads and napkins gets disorganized in a hurry, and it’s easy to start spending money in an equally disorganized way. A centralized list lets you check off things as you go, and keeps you on track. You can easily substitute ideas with the click of a pen (or a mouse). This helps to avoid the extra impulsive purchases that lead to “over gifting” and over spending. A computerized list might offer additional advantages:

  • You can collect initial gift ideas by name and then re-sort them by store destination, which can save time and gasoline.
  • You can add extra columns that remind you what you bought and what you spent on each person last year, as well as sizes and color preferences.
  • If you’re shopping online, you can copy links to the merchandise you’re planning to buy so when it’s time to spend, you don’t have to waste time on a new search.

Co-ordinate your online and in-store shopping for more savings: Remember to use the internet as a shopping tool.

Showrooming” is the practice of checking out merchandise in a store and then ordering it online. This may save you a lot.

Webrooming” is just the reverse. A consumer will use a computer or mobile device at home to check out deals, and then head to a specific store to make the most economical purchase.

Shop-bot” price comparison websites such as can either suggest the best site for an online purchase, or they can help you determine general price ranges for gifts you need that are sold online. Once you have those ranges, check the retail sites to see if you can buy the same items more affordably at stores close to home (and remember again the additional savings of time and gas if you can consolidate or save yourself a trip).

Search and order early to avoid the pressure of picking out a last minute gift, or worrying that it’s not going to arrive on time. Don’t forget to look closely at the taxes, shipping costs, or return policies before you click “complete my order.” Those fees and restrictions can end up costing you considerable extra money.

Get coupons: Retailers liberally dole out coupons at the holidays, but don’t stop at those that arrive in the mail or inside your local newspaper. Increasingly, online coupon sites can make a huge

difference in what you’ll pay for online merchandise in terms of item discounts and deals on shipping. Finding coupons may take a bit of trial-and-error. Coupon sites come and go and the coupons they list don’t always work, but type the name of your retailer and the words “coupons” or “discount codes,” see what comes up, and then follow the instructions. Manufacturers are another good coupon resource. Go directly to their websites, too!

Don’t forget charity: Tax benefits aside, it makes sense to budget for charities at the end of the year. In a rough economy, people tend to take care of themselves before they take care of others, so set aside money you plan to give before December 31. And if you have kids, helping others is a very good idea to model during the holiday season.

Reward yourself for sticking to your holiday spending plan: As good as it feels to give, receiving is not bad either. So buy yourself something nice, but not too pricey!

Note: The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendation for any individual. Please remember that past performance of investments may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter (article), will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), or be suitable for your portfolio. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this post serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Vermillion Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed within this newsletter to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available for review upon request.

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