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6 Smart Pre-Holiday Season Shopping Tips

Nov 19, 2021

A woman and a man looking at a laptop while on a sofa

Holiday Shopping Season’s Greetings! Yep, the holiday season is here — and with it, the holiday shopping frenzy. Gift wish lists, shopping excursions, Black Friday sales … it’s that time of year where a ton of emphasis is placed not only on gift shopping for others, but on finding the best deals of the year for ourselves.

All this also means that after a year of doing really well with your budget and financial goals for the year, you may let those goals slip (or disappear completely) in an effort to give everyone the “perfect” gift. But, what is the perfect gift, anyway? And is it really worth throwing away all of your hard work and discipline on your finances to get that temporary thrill?

This year, we want to make sure you don’t get so caught up in the excitement of the season that you spend more than necessary or beyond your means. Don’t get us wrong, we agree that gift-giving and making someone happy feels good. We simply want to help you do that and still feel good about your finances once the holiday season ends.

In that spirit, we’ve come up with a few tips to help keep your budget on track during the holidays, so you can make this the Season of Shopping Smart!

Smart Tip #1: Everything Is Better with a Plan

When it comes to holiday shopping, this couldn’t be truer! Before you even step into a store or begin browsing online, make a plan of not only what you want to shop for, but how much you can afford to spend. This way, you won’t be tempted to spend more than you’ve allocated. For instance:

● Start by making a list of everyone on your list. Family, friends, co-workers, etc. — list each person by name and then set a realistic cap on how much you can spend for each of them. Be specific.

● Instead of saying you’ll allocate $10 – $20 per person, set a finite number (e.g., $15 for X). If anything, the number you set should be your maximum or limit that you will not go over.

● If something you really want to get costs more than you planned on spending, ask yourself: Is it really worth the extra expense? If you ultimately decide it is, then make spending adjustments elsewhere on your list to keep your budget intact.

Not that we need to remind you, but it really is the thought that counts the most. Don’t let desperation, guilt or peer pressure make you feel like you need to spend beyond your means.

Smart Tip #2: Spending Money Isn’t Saving Money

If you read that and thought, “Well, obviously,” hear us out. All too often, we tend to think that because we get something that’s on sale or use a promo code, we’re saving money. Retailers — and the tradition that is holiday shopping — have conditioned us to think that taking advantage of discounts and offers is always smart.

To an extent, it is. But don’t forget: Spending is still spending, but it’s not always saving. Spending money on three items to get one item free is not saving. Spending money on gifts, even if at a discount, is still spending.

By all means, take advantage of holiday sales when you can; saving money on one gift means you either get to spend more on another gift or have money left over in your budget. Just don’t get trapped in a mindset of, “I’m saving money, so I’m doing a good thing here!” Instead, make sure everything you end up getting is necessary and true to your plan, not based on the “deal” you feel like you’re scoring.

Smart Tip #3: Do Your Research on Big-Ticket-Item Sales

With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other holiday sales going on this time of year, you’ll likely find great deals on washer/dryer sets, mattresses, couches and other big-ticket items. We say … go for it! Just be smart about it. Not every retailer is created equal, and every brand will have different offerings at different times. Don’t just walk into a store and get the first couch that catches your eye. That’s called getting something on impulse (which, you’ll notice, is not in this list of tips).

Instead, explore multiple retailers’ stores and sites (like the ones that partner with Acima) and determine which items are not only your favorite, but are available at a price point that’s most reasonable for you. Always cross-reference, do your research, and really think about these bigger items before you invest in them. This will prevent you from overspending or shopping impulsively, and (more importantly) it will help keep you on budget.

Smart Tip #4: Don’t Be Lured into the “Convenience” of Credit

One of the most common holiday shopping temptations is to put all the gifts you get on your credit card. But be warned, this plan can be a slippery slope. When you don’t “see” the money you’re spending, it’s harder to keep track of how many times you use your credit card and it’s easier to overspend.

So while it may be convenient to use credit to get just one more thing and pay it off later, just remember — “later” always comes sooner than you realize. And more than likely, you’ll find yourself stuck with a larger credit card bill than you anticipated.

Smart Tip #5: Remind Yourself: It’s the Thought That Counts

It’s perfectly natural to want to shower every single loved one with over-the-top gifts, especially this time of year. But for most people, it simply isn’t realistic or practical. And we’re willing to bet the gift recipients in your life already know this.

As we’ve said, your family and friends should understand that it really is the thought that means the most when it comes to gift-giving. So you should never sacrifice (or be pressured into sacrificing) your budget and monetary goals for extravagant, in-the-moment gifts. Stay the course, stick to the budget you’ve set for yourself and don’t go overboard. Consider it the gift you give yourself.

Smart Tip #6:  Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Do yourself a favor and make the pledge right now not to be this person. There’s no greater holiday stress than waiting until the last minute to find a decent gift, because let’s face it — there won’t be many left to choose. Worse, waiting can be detrimental to your wallet. You may end up spending more on an item than you’re comfortable with because you feel like you’ll have no other choice.

Again, there is no gift worth going over budget for, especially when the situation could be solved by simply shopping smarter, being diligent and staying organized with your time and money. With your holiday shopping completed early, you’ll have more time to relax and enjoy everything else the holiday season has in store!

Bonus Tip: Don’t Forget to Gift Yourself

In the scramble of the holidays, it can be easy to forget ourselves. This season, do something nice for yourself! Splurge on that sweater or necklace you’ve been eyeing—and show yourself that you care. With thousands of retailers nationwide, Acima makes it super easy for you to treat yourself right this holiday. And with Acima’s lease-to-own option*, you can even splurge a little without having to worry about cutting into your friends and family gift budget.