Money Conversations: Holiday Shopping
It does not seem that long ago that I had to write an article about holidays and savings, but the year flies by, and the holidays are upon us again. It is sad to find out that not enough fellow-Americans must have read my article last year because a study by American Express found out that 86% of millennials spent more money on winter holidays in 2020 than they intended to, and of those who overspent – over 20% went over budget by at least $500. Mamma mia!
Now I am not trying to be a Grinch who wants to take away the joy of holiday shopping; rather a fairy Godmother who wants to remind you that after the magic of celebration fades away, you may face a prospect of having a pumpkin for a car and rags for clothes if you do not preserve your savings and your credit. So with a wave of my magic wand (in this case, with strokes of my computer keys), I will try to persuade you to make this holiday season a bit more frugal and less materialistic. Just follow these tips:
1. Set a holiday budget. Whether you have been saving all year or will allocate a portion of your discretionary income right before the holiday, decide how much you are willing to spend and stick to that amount.
2. Make a list. Even Santa keeps one, why shouldn’t you?! Planning ahead will help you know exactly what you are looking to buy for each person and not get side-tracked in the store.
3. Pay cash instead of using bank cards. This might seem counter-intuitive to someone who enjoys getting cashback rewards; yet seeing cash disappearing from your wallet is more sobering than keeping up with your card spending. If you have to pay with a card, stay disciplined about not going over your spending limit. Some bank apps will let you set an alert of when you reach a certain balance in your account. Also, if you cannot pay off your credit card right away, do not use one.
4. Prepare ahead of time. Last-minute shopping may result in more money spent. At this point the concern about having everything ready in time may overshadow your concern for staying on the budget. Also, when you shop ahead of time, you have time to look for good deals and discounts.
5. Meaningful gifts are better than expensive ones. A photograph of a memorable moment or re-gifting a drawing your child gave you 20 years ago can be priceless to someone.
6. Ask family and friends about what they would like to receive. After all, adults like writing letters to Santa too. It is always better to give something they need/want instead of something they will secretly hope comes with a gift receipt so they can return it to the store the next day. If the price tag of this item is too high for you, you can always unite with other friends/family members to share the expense and give a group gift.
If this is not convincing enough, let me present another perspective on the subject matter. All these gifts you are spending time, money and effort on may not even be as appreciated as you expect. NBC news reports that Americans are growing weary of the clutter in their homes. In fact, an average American home contains 300,000 items, and 84% of Americans worry that their home is not properly organized. The article “America’s Clutter Problem” published in Time Magazine reveals that “Children in the U.S. make up 3.1% of the world’s kid population, but U.S. families buy more than 40% of the toys purchased globally.” Do you still want to contribute to this mess?
If you are unsure what to get: cash, gift cards, experiences, subscriptions, consumable and eco-friendly gifts still rank the highest among respondents. Intuit website by Turbo Tax has found out that 61% of Americans prefer cash to other gifts. A well-known survey engine Survey Monkey relays that most survey takers admit that event tickets and adventure experiences are considered to be some of the best gifts they have ever received.
So with these thoughts, I want to wish everyone a truly amazing holiday season with happiness that arises from within. After all, health and time spent with loved ones are the best gifts one can ask for. If you have those, you are already rich and equipped with everything you need.