Don’t Get Tricked This Holiday Shopping Season!

Trick or TreatLet’s be clear, over the past three years, retailers have launched an aggressive strategy for your hard earned cash and to derail your budget!   The holiday shopping season (November and December) is the most profitable time of the year.  According to the National Retail Federation forecast, holiday sales are expected to increase 4.1% in 2014, with total sales projection at $616.9B. Yes that is B for billion!   Retailers are not interested in your wise money management strategy!

On October 13th, Macy announced that they will open their doors before the turkey gets cold at 6pm on Thanksgiving Day.  In 2013, they opened at 8pm, and at midnight in 2012.   Remember when Macy’s and other stores opened on Friday at 5am for “The AFTER Thanksgiving Day Sale”?  That sale is a thing of the past, permanently replaced by Black Friday.  Now it’s Black Thursday, as stores compete to start the shopping season earlier and earlier to pull ahead sales and increase profits.  Advertisers began dripping pre-holiday sale campaigns the week after “Back to School” shopping ended and are in full stealth mode before Halloween.  There is hope!  Consumers are pushing back with a Boycott Black Thursday Campaign on Facebook and it is growing.

If you want to win the holiday shopping game with more of your money in your pocket than the retailers’ cash registers, now is the time for you to prepare your full court press!    Below are five steps you can take to launch a defensive strategy to come out ahead of the game.  Keep your eyes on the ball!

  1. Catch up or maintain all of your existing financial obligations. 

    and will help you to make firm decisions on what you can afford.  Keep in mind, if you ignore payments now, you will begin the New Year with more stress and in a deeper hole.

  2. Establish a budget and stick to it.  Know exactly how much you plan to spend before the season begins.  This amount should include more than toys, but include groceries, entertainment, and other incidentals.  Set aside dollars now if you have not been saving year round.  Once you establish your budget, consider removing the money from your checking account in order to avoid intermingled with your bill money.  You can place the cash in an envelope or on a prepaid card. Once it is depleted, it’s over.  Avoid financing a spectacular holiday on credit cards.  You’ll enjoy the season now, but will pay for it all next year.
  3.  Make a list and check it twice.   Write down everyone that you plan to purchase a gift, no matter how small.  Next to the name, write down the gift or the maximum dollar value that you will spend.  Don’t forget to include the extra tips for stylist, babysitters, etc.  Opposed to letting the toys dictate the budget, set the maximum amount up front.  By being proactive, you will not wander through the mall at the last minute and can snag the best prices.
  4. Know your prices and shop for deals.  Research and price comparison shop online and with the weekly circulars to make sure that you are getting a deal, especially for larger purchases.   Check out www.BlackFriday.com for frequent updates.   Be warned, though—some so-called “Black Friday” deals aren’t any cheaper than the regular sale price, so do some extra research before you camp out in the store parking lot at 2 a.m.   Don’t forget to check online for deals and promo codes like discounts and free shipping at coupon sites like Brad’s Deals RetailMeNot,or Vouchercloud.  With technology, there are many other tools and apps available for your pricing advantage.
  5. Review your receipts and statements carefully.  Everyone is moving fast and errors can happen.    Retailers fill the extra shifts with new seasonal hires; not only can mistakes happen, but an occasional mis-hire slip through the cracks.   Coincidentally, two of the largest data and identity theft breaches, Target and TJX Companies, happened during the holiday shopping season.  Slow down! Be sure to check your receipts and change before you leave the cash register, even if you have to step aside.  Check them again on your bank or credit statement or online.  You can catch and correct errors early.

Now, you are equipped for a stress-free holiday shopping season and to emerge as the WINNER!  

   When 2015 arrives, you will be focused and ready to conquer your financial goals.   Happy Holidays!

Samirian Hill, the MoneyWise Teacher, is the President and Founder of BudgetWise Financial Solution LLC where they teach people to manage money wisely. She is a financial professional, educator and freelance writer.  Join our Money Wisdom eNewsletter for more tips and strategies on wise money management at  www.budgetwisefinancial.com

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