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Tips for Shopping Early this Holiday Season

Fall is here, which means the winter holidays are right around the corner. Everyone can feel a little overwhelmed during the holiday season, leading to procrastination, shopping anxiety, or delayed gift picking. But the holidays are meant to be full of fun and love, so minimizing your stress is the best strategy for thoroughly enjoying the holidays.

Below are a few tips to avoid the holiday panic and be "on your game" by shopping early this year!

1) Create a Gift List
While it can be fun to buy gifts for everyone you know, smart holiday shopping starts with creating a list of your closest relationships. Once you establish the list, itemize gift possibilities for each person.

By narrowing down potential candidates for gift-receiving and items they might like, you set a limit on how much holiday spending you'll do, reducing your risk of "overbuying." This can also decrease stress by limiting your time thinking up gift ideas and shopping.

2) Make a Budget
Set a budget and stick to it. Money can be tough to manage during the holiday season. Your best option to control your spending is to delegate a certain amount of money you are willing to spend (even specific amounts you are willing to spend per person). Then ensure your gift ideas stay within that range.

If you see something you know a friend or loved one would ADORE that is a little over budget, you could opt to purchase it, but make sure to reduce some spending on other gifts to stay within budget.

3) Set a Day to Get to the Stores Now
Shortages and supply chain disruptions from the pandemic continue to hit most industries worldwide, especially when it comes to electronics. Many companies have seen unusual shortages, so pinpoint the gifts you want now and buy them while they're in stock. If gaming systems, mobile devices, or computers are on your list, buying early is a smart move because they may be in short supply. Likewise, their costs may be overinflated as you get closer to the holidays.

Some stores offer holiday sales long before "Black Friday" approaches. By the end of November, you might start to feel too much pressure ramp up. Therefore, there's no time like the present to start your holiday shopping.

4) Shop Online and Do Curbside Pickup
Shopping online allows you to compare prices easily and quickly among several retailers. If there is a specific item you want, consider signing up for alerts from deal-posting websites. Or enroll in emails from your favorite retailers, as many will send special coupon codes as the holidays approach.

While many online retailers offer free shipping, for those that do not, consider curbside pickup as a way to save on shipping costs and extend your holiday budget.

5) Be Smart If Using Credit Cards
Many people use credit cards during the holidays due to their ease of use and ability to track spending. However, if you decide to go this route, it's essential to apply rules to your spending to maintain control over your debt.

First, always use your credit card with the lowest rate. While many credit cards offer rewards, these cards typically have much higher interest rates. If you cannot pay off the balance in full right away, you may end up paying significantly more in interest than you earn in rewards.

Also, while it's best to pay off your credit card balance in full each month, this is not always an option for many. If this is the case, it’s important that you set guidelines for paying off the debt within a specified timeframe. Your goal should be to avoid going into the new year with significant credit card balances. 

Lastly, try to use only one credit card for your purchases. This tactic will help you easily keep track of your spending throughout the holiday season.

6) Consider a Personal Loan
A personal or holiday loan is the smarter option when it comes to borrowing money over the holidays. With a personal loan, you receive a set amount of money to use – making it easy to stay within your budget. And because these loans have structured repayment plans and a set payoff date, you’ll know exactly when you will repay your debt. Personal loans often have lower interest rates than credit cards, and their set payments typically help borrowers pay off the debt quicker.  

We're Here to Help!
While the holidays can be stressful, they are also a time of celebration. If you're looking for financial assistance during the holiday season, we're here to help. Please stop by the Credit Union or give us a call today at 410-687-5240 to learn more about all the options we have to help make your holidays merry and bright.

Each individual’s financial situation is unique and readers are encouraged to contact the Credit Union when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.