"You can't shop on a budget if you don't have a budget," says Karen Hoxmeier, owner of MyBargainBuddy.com. Her advice? Sit down with your bills, checkbook and paystubs (or visit one of the top money management websites). "Figure out how much you have coming in, how much you have going out, and how much money you can allot toward shopping."
In addition to creating a budget for money, give yourself a budget of time that includes a lot of it. When you're in a rush or hurried to buy an item, you'll likely overspend.
For one month, track every penny you spend. It may be a lot of work, but it will give you a really good idea of what you are spending your money on.
Samer Forzley, vice-president of marketing at eBillme.com, says to be patient. "Don't be so quick to make the purchase. If you are shopping offline in a store, check the website first before purchasing, because sometimes they offer special sales and discounts on the Web that can help save you money."
Forzley says that, once you've nailed down a budget, the obvious (but not so easy) trick is to stick to it.
"Maintaining a budget is one of the best ways to not overspend and to avoid debt. For one month, track every penny you spend. It may be a lot of work, but it will give you a really good idea of what you are spending your money on. Even those little purchases that you may not think really matter, like gum or your daily Starbucks coffee, add up in a month's time." By keeping a spending journal, you'll be able to identify where you can cut back next month.
Let price tags be your guide. If you're looking for a specific item, keep an open mind. If you're in the market for a new rug for your living room, says Hoxmeier, don't fixate on a certain size or style. Instead, she recommends browsing online stores and outlet stores. "You just might find something that works better and is more affordable."
And if you think Christmas or Hanukkah occur only in December, think again. She recommends being creative with the time of year in which you shop, and look for clearance holiday items year 'round. "It cuts down on stress during the holidays, spaces out the spending, and gives you more time to find the best budget-friendly gift for everyone on your list."
The key to sticking with your budget is knowing a nice-to-have versus a need-to-have. Karen explains, "Before you buy anything, ask yourself if you really need it. A bargain, no matter how cheap, is no bargain if it's just going to sit in a closet."
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