As the holiday shopping days are counting down, stretching our hard-earned dollars is very important to our wallets. Many of us are praying for a financial blessing or trying to find ways to bring in extra money to make our 2010 Christmas a good one. If you are shopping on a budget this holiday, here’s some smart and cost-saving tips from the Federal Trade Commission that can assist you with saving and staying within your budget this season.
Make a list and set a budget. List the people you plan to buy gifts for, the type of gifts you plan to buy, and how much you plan to spend. Include the cost of cash gifts, holiday travel, extra food, wrappings, decorations, greeting cards, and postage. If it relates to the holiday season and it costs money, add it to your budget.
Shop around. A “sale” price isn’t always the “best” price. Some merchants may offer a sale price on the item you want for a limited time; other merchants may offer items at a discount everyday.
Look for price-matching policies. Some merchants will match, or even beat, a competitor’s prices.
Go online. Check out websites that compare prices. If you decide to buy from an online merchant, keep shipping costs and delivery time in mind.
Carefully consider bargain offers that are based on purchases of additional merchandise. For example, “Buy One, Get One Free” or “Free Gift with Purchase.” If you don’t really want or need the item, it’s not a deal.
Clip coupons. Coupons are useful when they save you money on what you’re already planning to buy. Check coupons for any restrictions. For example, do expiration dates apply, or do you have to spend a certain amount before you can use the coupon? Some retailers will accept expired coupons, and even coupons from their competitors. Check with the retailer before you leave home to learn their policy.
Ask about sale adjustments. If you buy an item at regular price and it goes on sale the next week, can you get a credit or refund for the discounted amount?
Consider layaway. Layaway purchase plans are designed for people who want to buy merchandise without using credit or paying the full price immediately. When you use layaway, you typically make a deposit – usually a percentage of the purchase price – and pay over time until you have paid for the item in full. In exchange, the retailer holds the merchandise for you. To avoid problems, get the store’s layaway policy in writing.