I both love and hate shopping during the holidays. I admit I do tend to avoid the malls (after the fourth mall shopper crashed into me last year in her frenzy to reach the "clearance" racks, I decided online shopping might be the smarter as well as safer bet). But as far as boutiques, stand-alone brick-and-mortar stores and online stores, no sale is safe from me. However, this attitude is not always healthy for my budget. So this year, I am determined to shop both safely and affordably during the holidays. This year, I resolve to shop for the things on my list and not one item more. This year, I resolve not to shop sales just because they are there. This year, I resolve to resist "great deals" on items I know (down deep in my core) I do not truly need. If you can relate to these resolutions, hopefully these tips will help us both!
Our national holiday spending “forecast”
The National Retail Foundation's annual survey shows that holiday spending is at an all-time high.
- We spent 3.8% more in 2013 than in 2012 (to the tune of $601.8 billion total).
- Our November and December spending last year totaled 19.2% of annual sales.
This is our national spending forecast—what we can expect if we "go with the flow." The good news is, unlike with our local weather forecast, we can change our personal holiday spending forecast if we resolve to do things differently this year!
While it may seem like an oxymoron to attempt to save on holiday spending, experts (like KCL's own Joanie and Heather) say it can be done. Here are tips that will help.
1. Coupon for holiday "varieties" of regular household items
It’s always nice to have holiday-themed paper goods, towels, candles and other festive items on hand for guests and visiting relatives. The good news with these items is that, unlike strings of lights and mistletoe, if you have extras you still can use them all year long.
Here are some ideas:
- Paper goods: Paper towels, napkins, party plates of various sizes, wrapping paper
- Plastic goods: Festive flatware, plastic cups (go for one-size-fits-all to save), gift bags, ribbons and bows
- Tea lights and candles: So long as you enjoy the scents, you can use these all year.
Note: If you dislike using holiday themed items after the holidays, then opt for holiday solid colors (red, green, blue, white, etc.) so if you have extras to use up, they won't be so noticeable.
2. Consider hosting an in-home sales event to reduce the cost of gifts for everyone
If you have a friend who is an independent sales rep for a popular line of jewelry, accessories, kitchenware, skincare or scrapbooking supplies, consider hosting a pre-holiday party in your home. You’ll save on gifts and so will your friends—and your sales rep friend will make her holiday quota!
As party hostess, you can expect to receive:
- Free hostess gifts
- One-on-one time with the consultant for personalized gift recommendations
- Deeper discounts on your purchases (Discounts typically escalate with higher totals on party purchases.)
Your attendees can expect to receive:
- Attendee free samples
- Discounts on purchases
3. If you can't find the item at the price you want, go ahead and wait it out
You just never know what the holiday shopping mania will bring. If there’s an item you want but the price isn't right, don't buy it.
- What to do: Wait…chances are the price will not go up before the holidays arrive in earnest, and it might decrease as merchants become more eager to move their holiday inventory.
4. Don't fall for "door busters"
A "door buster" is a marketer's term for a low-priced item that is so enticing, it can bring customers to the store all by itself. But experts caution against assuming that just because an item is advertised at an "all-time low" for that store, do not assume that is the lowest price you can find!
- What to do: Use your price comparison tools and coupons to "challenge" that price—see if you can find the item for lower somewhere else.
5. Wait for holiday clearance sales to start
Traditionally, many merchants begin their holiday clearance sales right before the holidays actually begin. Once the clearance sales start, prices on those items will continue to decline until a) inventory is all gone, or b) the new sales cycle starts.
- What to do: Research when your favorite merchants will begin their clearance sales (often you can find this by signing up for their email newsletters or following them on social media). Then plan your shopping accordingly.
6. Watch social media for "flash" coupons, deals and offers
As we become increasingly social media-driven, merchants are using the power of free social media-based advertising to draw in customers.
- What to do: For items you really want, be sure to follow those merchants on Facebook and Twitter (you can set up your social media accounts so they deliver alerts as they happen to make sure you don't miss an offer). Also be sure to sign up for Amazon's Lightning Deals.
7. When asking for price matching, don't forget about online store offers
During the holiday crush, many brick-and-mortar merchants rely on holiday sales to close out the year in the black. (Remember, 19.2% of all annual spending happens in November and December!) So not only will many retailers offer price matching guarantees, but often these apply to competitors' prices both online and offline.
- What to do: If you see a low price online offer, bring in the proof and ask the merchant to honor it.
8. Sign up for the holiday store credit card and promotional offers
Just as nearly 20% of annual purchases are made during the holidays, so too do holidays represent a merchant's best chance to a) attract new customers, and b) build long-term customer loyalty. So prepare for retailers to compete by offering mouth-watering incentives to sign up for their in-store promotional offers, including freebies with purchase, discounts when signing up for a new line of store credit and more.
- What to do: Take the offers, discounts, deals and freebies! Pay for what you owe, then stash those cards away until the holidays arrive again (or even better, cut them up so you won't be tempted).