We are almost in the middle of what many would consider the “holiday season,” and these last three months of the year are always some of the most expensive for American consumers. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, Americans planned to spend an average of $720 just for Christmas gifts last year. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed planned on spending more than $1,000. Factor in traveling, eating and other expenses that Thanksgiving and other winter holidays bring, and you’re left with a hefty credit card bill in January. If you’re already fretting about the cost of holiday cheer this year, here are some good coping strategies to try.
“Retailers often use subtle tricks to convince you to spend more.”
Know the tricks
Simply being aware of all the hype that surrounds this time of year may prove helpful in lowering your expenses. U.S. News & World Report highlighted several ways retailers convince you to spend more, beginning as early as October. Many of these revolve around psychology and are thus quite subtle. Studies have shown that small details like spice-scented candles and holiday music can convince shoppers to stick around longer and buy more. Even repeated use of the color red has been shown to convince people that they are hungry, or that items are being offered at a discount. Subliminal tricks like these are commonly employed by retailers to encourage overspending.
Online retailers have similarly tweaked their websites to maximize sales. U.S. News & World Report noted researchers have found a pattern of excessive spending when customers view items in a list sorted from most expensive to least expensive. Many online stores also offer to waive a shipping fee if an order is over a certain amount. It’s hard to resist free, and that makes this one of the most pervasive tricks. Similarly, coupons or zero-percent financing deals may encourage overspending. A “buy two get one free” deal may sound appealing, for example, but do you even need two of that product in the first place? Be mindful that almost all retail deals are designed to increase the store’s revenue, not your own.
Make a plan
Perhaps the best way to stay above all these strategies is to make a plan, preferably a list of items you need, and don’t deviate. Go into your shopping experience knowing that retailers will try to convince you to buy what you don’t need. If you’re serious about sticking to a budget, all it takes is a quick “no, thanks.” Bankrate suggested beginning your holiday gift brainstorming at least a couple of months ahead of time to not only find the most reasonably priced gifts but to budget for them as well. One personal financial planner interviewed suggested setting a fixed dollar amount for each person on your list. Something in the ballpark of $25 is usually a good bet for a thoughtful yet thrifty gift.
To really start saving, consider handmade gifts. Making your own presents is a great way to tap into your talents and save money at the same time. Even something as simple as a handmade card, ornament or scrapbook can go a long way toward showing your appreciation for someone. Making these presents works wonders to get the entire family involved and engaged in the holiday spirit. Family members may also value your company more than any gift you can give. Bringing friends and family together may be the best way for a frugal holiday season.
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