By FPA member Amy Jo Lauber, CFP®
Last Updated: November 1, 2011
Holiday shopping is enjoyable, stressful, and everything in between. Here are some tips to help you use your time and money wisely:
- Set aside time to think about your past gifts as well as what giving means to you and those you buy for. List each person on your shopping list and some possible gift ideas. Recall conversations you’ve had with your loved ones and check their Facebook and Twitter posts for ideas (such as for restaurants, museums, books, hobbies, and collections they may have mentioned).
- Know what you can reasonably spend and set a budget if you can. For some people, this takes the fun out of shopping, so, if you bristle at the thought of a budget, set aside a certain amount of cash each time you shop (you’ll spend less if you use only cash) and designate how many people you intend to shop for that day. Do not exceed the limit. Challenge yourself to find gifts for as many people as possible with the money you have. Ask the clerk if there is a discount for using cash (merchants must pay for the ability to accept credit cards). Don’t be afraid, it’s your money and merchants are asked this question frequently. The worst they can say is “no”, but they just might say “yes”!
- If you MUST use credit cards, use the one with the smallest interest rate and consider store cards that will offer a discount with your first purchase (you can always cancel the card later). Some cards provide rewards such as coupons for future purchases. Check out Upromise — a rewards program that could funnel cash earned from certain purchases into a 529 college savings program.
- Check sales, coupons, promotions and credit card rewards. Put the details with your shopping list and on your calendar.
- While shopping, it’s easy to get distracted by something that you’d like to buy for yourself. Instead of succumbing to this temptation, ask the clerk to put it on hold for you and tell a loved one about the item. They’ll appreciate the tip and you’ll save money for gifts you’re buying for others.
- Get creative! Consider making your own jams, applesauce, chocolates, etc. Shop in a craft store for projects you can make alone or with others (like the kids). Making up a gift basket, on the other hand, can easily break the budget as you try to fill every nook and cranny. Be careful!
- Give an experience! An outing to a tea house (wrapped in a pretty cup and tea bags), a trip to the spa (perhaps with sitters lined up for children), coins for a local children’s arcade, or tickets to the theater, movies, philharmonic or a museum will provide memories (with no storage issues). Less glamorous, but no less necessary are certificates for someone to have their Will drafted, or a financial plan created.
- Wrap it up. Scour the house, yard or local park for items you can use for wrapping such as brown paper bags that can be decorated with craft paint and glitter, glass jars that can be wrapped in old calendar photos, tall grasses, rose hips or pinecones that can be bundled with a pretty ribbon atop a present. Last years’ cards can be cut into this years’ gift tags.
- Thrift stores sell treasures, if you have the time to search for them. Coffee table books, blown glass ornaments, and antique teacups and saucers are just some of the possibilities found in these stores.
FPA member Amy Jo Lauber, CFP®, is the President of Lauber Financial Planning in Buffalo, NY.