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Shopping tips for before, during and after the holidays

The holidays are less than two months away, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll still wait to the last minute before purchasing gifts for friends and family. In an effort to get the shopping done early, I’m sharing some holiday shopping tips that will help you save money before, during and after the holidays.

Create a budget

Assuming you stick to it, setting a budget for your holiday shopping will ensure that you don’t overspend. I prefer to have a total budget as opposed to having an assigned number for every person I’m getting a gift. Remember, most people are not fixated on receiving expensive gifts, as the holidays are more about spending time with your loved ones. So, don’t stress out if you’re on a limited budget.

Look for Black Friday Deals

Forget Boxing Day; Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the best times to score some incredible deals. Heck, I would argue that Black Friday marks the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season. Generally speaking, large ticket items tend to have the biggest discounts, but many retailers have “door crasher” deals to encourage you to spend on smaller items, so it’s always worth checking out what’s on sale. Remember, you can get the same deals online so there’s no reason to line up hours before stores open to secure your presents.

Make a list

Just like Santa, you need your own naughty and nice list. Try to keep your list within reason. Think about it, does your boss or hairstylist really need or expect a gift from you? It may be tough, but crossing names off your gift list means you’ll spend less money.

Use your credit cards wisely

There’s no denying that people spend more during the holidays, so why not use your credit cards to your advantage? For example, the BMO World Elite Mastercard comes with 35,000 welcome points (worth $250) after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months and the annual fee of $150 is waived for the first year. Alternatively, you could apply for one of the best cash back credit cards to boost your savings while you shop, such as the TD Cash Back Visa Infinite, which comes with a welcome bonus that gives you 10% cash-back on all your purchases for the first 3 months (up to $200).

Learn to say no

The tricky part about the holidays is that you’ll likely get a few invitations to events which you didn’t plan for. This isn’t a big deal unless you start saying yes to everything. The costs of a night out with friends, a bottle of champagne for hosts, and gift exchanges can certainly add up fast. I’m not suggesting you be anti-social, but if you’re on a strict budget, you’re going to have to say no to some of your friends.

Talk to your friends

If you’re already stressing out about the cost of the holidays, there’s a good chance your friends are too. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about doing a group gift exchange instead of buying gifts for everyone individually. It’s also fair to suggest price limits on gifts. Now if you’re from a family that traditionally spends a lot on gifts, you shouldn’t feel guilty if you need to be the one that doesn’t go all out this year. Everyone’s financial situation is different, you should not have to feel pressured to spend more due to traditions or someone else’s expectations.

Pay off your debt ASAP

Okay, so the holidays have passed and you still went over budget. That’s okay, but do you have a plan to pay off your debt? One way to reduce the amount of debt you owe is by looking at low interest credit cards. As the name implies, these cards have a low interest rate around 8%-12% which is significantly lower than 19.99% that the average credit card charges. Best of all, many of these cards offer a balance transfer option with teaser rates, which let you pay as little as 0% or 1.99% in interest on balances you transfer from another card for the first six or nine months.

Start saving for the next year

Despite the fact that the holidays happen every December, many people don’t have the money available to spend on gifts and going out when the end of the year rolls around. Start saving in January by setting up monthly automatic payments which are dedicated just for the holidays. By doing this, you’ll have the money available and you’ll hopefully not have go into debt.