COLLEGE STATION — ‘Tis the season of holiday gift giving, battling crowded malls, and shoppers blowing their budgets. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says a Texas Agricultural Extension Service specialist.
Budgeting time and money will save shoppers from staggering debts left from holiday shopping sprees.
“It’s important for people to put shopping into perspective. Make a list of all the people you will be buying gifts for and set an overall limit on how much you can spend,” said Joyce Cavanagh, Extension family economist.
A shopper armed with a detailed list is, in effect, budgeting the amount of time spent shopping and the amount of money spent on a gift.
“The earlier you start the more likely you’re going to be able to get what you want at a price you’re willing to pay,” Cavanagh said.
Retailers anticipate a shopping boom this holiday season, with shoppers spending $150 more on gifts this year. That raises the average shopping budget from $650 to $800 per household.
The International Mass Retail Association reported 51 percent of consumers will begin combing department stores for gifts starting in December.
Thirty-five percent of the surveyed shoppers said they would be in stores during the first two weeks, while 7 percent said they would shop during the hectic Christmas Eve rush.
Shoppers may want to plan which method of payment they’ll use.
Credit cards sometimes mean pitfalls for shoppers who choose to charge presents. Charging a gift may seem quick and easy, but may result in shoppers spending more money than originally anticipated.
Credit card companies may offer tempting deferred billing plans or the shoppers to skip a payment. It is important to remember the clock on finance charges does not stop and most of these options continue to accrue finance charges.
“You may not get penalized for not making a payment, but you’re going to end up paying more, so even if you buy something on sale you may lose that savings by paying more in finance charges,” said Cavanagh.
Rather than relying on credit, Cavanagh advises paying with cash. This is feasible if shoppers plan ahead and begin building a holiday gift fund five to six weeks in advance or even earlier.
Shoppers frequently forget that gifts do not have to come in brightly wrapped department store boxes. They should take advantage of their own creative talents when it comes to giving gifts.
Homemade gift certificates are personalized presents that can be made with crayons and colored paper. A friend or relative may enjoy a certificate worth a night of free baby sitting or mom might like a month’s worth of free vacuuming.
“You don’t always have to spend money to have a successful, enjoyable holiday. People can give of themselves rather than give things,” advises Cavanagh.