It’s Always Christmas in My World

This Mama Knows writes a regular newspaper column titled “Wallet Watchers” in the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript which provides money saving tips.

As published in the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript on December 6, 2011.

In my world, Christmas is all year ‘round. No, I don’t keep up my Christmas decorations and tree all year. Nor am I one of those annoying neighbors who leave their Christmas lights up until Memorial Day. I mean that I’m mindful of the gifts and decorations buying part of the Holidays. Each year the people on my shopping list are pretty much the same. So throughout the year I keep an eye open for great gifts.  This is especially true during the after Christmas clearance sales when you can pick up really nice gifts and decorations at a fraction of the regular price.

The peak time to buy your Holiday decorations is in the week following Christmas.  Major retailers will gradually increase the discount of their Holiday merchandise over the following two weeks after Christmas.  I will usually wait for the clearance to hit 75% an 90% off before I stock up.  You will often find Christmas ornaments, tree skirts, stockings, wrapping paper and lights for pennies on the dollar if you wait to shop until after the holiday.

If you aren’t good about planning ahead, there are other ways you can save money on your Holiday gifts.  This is especially true if you know exactly what item you want and you know its sold a  several different stores. Make use of technology and the internet and do some price comparison online and find the store with the best price.  Also, a lot of the major retailers will price match, meaning they will honor the advertised price of one of their competitors in their own store.  In addition, most stores have price adjusting policies where if that item goes on sale within a certain time period, usually 30 days, you can bring your receipt back to them and they will refund you the difference between the price you paid and the sale price.

Shopping online can save you time, frustration and money.  Online shopping allows you to quickly and easily find product reviews and compare prices.  70% of Americans plan to do at least some of their Holiday shopping this year from the ease and comfort of their homes by shopping online.  My guess is that people are busy and its just more convenient to shop online. But also this is where the deals are at. Excluding groceries, I do nearly all my personal shopping online.

There are a couple of ways to maximize your savings when online shopping. First, take advantage of special online promotional codes that give you an additional discount, usually a percent off  your total purchase or free shipping. You can find these codes by using a search engine such as Google or Bing. Also, be sure to sign up for your favorite retailers’ online newsletters, which will often have unadvertised sales and coupons.  Also, join a cash back program to earn a percentage of your purchases back. These programs are free and easy to use and result in free money back in your pocket.

There are no rules saying that a gift has to cost you money. If you are crafty make something. A handmade gift means a lot more than a gift you didn’t put anything thought or effort into.  If you aren’t terribly crafty (like myself) you can still give handmade gifts.  Homemade cookies and fudge make great gifts. You can also make a your own cookie or hot cocoa mix. All you need is a quart size canning jar, scrap of fabric, ribbon and the required ingredients for the recipe.

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