Holiday Shopping On A Budget

Times are tough and money is tight. What is a holiday shopper to do? Many of us have friends and family to shop for, and all the magazines tell us to have a gift or three on hand for surprise visitors. Still yet, many of us also have our own children to buy for. While many of our gift buying ventures need only be one or two items, buying Christmas gifts for your children while you’re on a budget can be a dreadful challenge.

Below is some advice, tried and true.

The key may be to start early. So-called Christmas clubs run by many banks and credit unions incentivize savings for account holders. By putting money aside, a bit every week all year, folks can collect enough cash to tear up the ailes of their favorite department stores with glee come November and December. Of course, this sort of savings can be done individually as well but it requires discipline. The challenge is a good exercise any many savings calculators are available on line to help save a specific amount such as $1000 over the course of a year. That’s a good thought for next year. What if you’re stuck in a crunch sooner?

Layaways at department stores are a good short-term option. First, they relieve the stress of doing the actual shopping. You collect your items and they are held at the store via a small downpayment. Then you go back to the store periodically and make additional payments. Your final payment is due a few days before the holiday, and upon payment the items are yours and can be taken home. The disadvantages of this are that the timeframe is shorter than the bank Christmas clubs, and it also requires several trips to the store. Some stores allow layaway payments to be done on line. Do your internet research to find out which holiday retailers will work best for you.

Speaking of on line shopping, that is a good option for budget shoppers, too. Online outlets allow you to purchase 1-2 items at a time off of a wish list. As they arrive, wrap, label, and store away for the holiday. This is a good choice for people with a closet for storage, and the organization to stay on top of the list. Spreading the money spending out over time really is key for most of us.

But some years are tougher than others. Perhaps it’s just that the holidays are only a few weeks away. Money is so tight that you’re wondering how to pay the rent and heat bill as the days and nights get colder. Those times are bleak. Here are some thoughts and options. First, reach out to your community. I don’t mean you necessarily have to ask organizations for help–but you could. Just 3-4 gifts per child would help, wouldn’t it? You could send a confidential eMail to your child’s teacher or guidance counselor. Educators are equipped to support the interests of their students. Also, let a friend or two know your struggle. Often friends will want to help, and $50 from someone else will be a small burden to them and make a world of difference to you. Family may also want to help. This doesn’t mean they have to give you money, but perhaps they’ll buy a few extra things for your child to open. Kids don’t care who the gift is from, they just want the experience.

Another idea would be to buy a few on-brand items from a higher end department store and supplement with less expensive things. Last, you may want to consider the dollar section of popular department stores for last minute stocking stuffers. A full stocking adds a lot of fun to the gift opening experience on Christmas morning.

All in all, while we all know that the meaning of the holidays is not really about shopping, the truth is that not having things to give can be difficult at best and heartbreaking. Half of the joy of the season is in the giving. After all is said and done, a family conversation about a conscious decision to buy less can serve everyone’s interests well, can protect future holiday experiences, and may also be a great lesson in finding joy in the intangible instead. Happy Holidays!

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1 Comment

  1. Britanica
    October 23, 17:08 Reply
    Really good tips here! I always start my holiday shopping in September and I am usually done by now but thanks to income slowing down, I had to wait. I would like to add that online shopping tends to be easier and cheaper if you are looking to save. You can shop on eBay or Amazon and find brand new items marked down as well as wholesale priced items.

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