Holiday spending: How to spend less on holiday shopping

According to finance expert Andrea Woroch, it’s time to pull back the spending reins and trim down holiday gift expenses by making a realistic budget, taking advantage of holiday bargains, and learning how to hold on to your money. Here are eight of Woroch’s money-saving tips to help you save money on holiday gifts.

According to finance expert Andrea Woroch, it’s time to pull back the spending reins and trim down holiday gift expenses by making a realistic budget, taking advantage of holiday bargains, and learning how to hold on to your money. Here are eight of Woroch’s money-saving tips to help you save money on holiday gifts.

1. Make a holiday gift budget

The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey reported that holiday shoppers plan to spend an average of $704.18 on gifts this season, representing a slight decrease over last year. “Making a budget is a no-brainer, but challenge yourself to go under budget this year,” suggests Woroch, who is a consumer spending expert for Kinoli, Inc.  “Track your spending using the Toshl app to keep tabs on what you’re shelling out and how much you have left.” In addition, shop throughout the season instead of attacking your gift list only on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

2. Cut down on dining expenses

Do you really need all those expensive holiday dinners? Woroch recommends replacing the annual white-tablecloth celebration with an intimate gathering at home, instead. “Guests can bring a dish to share and everyone can comfortably converse without interruption from servers or obnoxious patrons,” the money-saving expert adds.

3. Refrain from personal purchases

“This one is tough during a time when bargains abound, but it’s especially important to avoid making purchases for yourself when you still have people on your gift list,” says Woroch. “That same NRF study reported the average consumer will spend approximately $130 on gifts for themselves. Imagine the dent you could make in your recipient list using that cash.”

4. Reduce everyday costs with resourcefulness

Woroch knows that the toughest part of budgeting for holiday gifts is not letting it eat into the money required for everyday items, including food. The money expert says, “Consider developing a menu for the week to reduce unnecessary food purchases, and use websites like Gojee.com to develop dishes around what you already have in your pantry. When you do head to the store to stock up on provisions, arm yourself with printable grocery coupons from such sites as CouponSherpa.com.”

5. Trim your gift list

The spirit of the season often yields neverending gift lists, especially when you’re surprised by presents from people who didn’t make the cut. “Trim your gift list to essential recipients and come up with inexpensive tokens for everyone else,” urges Woroch. “Homemade goodies, cards with heartfelt wishes and offers of service (babysitting, for example) are great options for neighbors and coworkers and can be produced last-minute.”

6. Find the best bargains

“Santa never misses the mark by making a list and checking it twice, so take a hint from the jolly man in red and do the same,” says Woroch. “Once you develop a list of essential recipients, bargain shop for gifts before making your final purchase. It’s tempting to get all your shopping done over a weekend just to get it out of the way, but doing so means missing out on bargain-rich opportunities.”

7. Know return policies and price matching policies

According to Woroch, retailers tighten return policies around the holidays, so be sure you read the fine print before making a purchase. In addition, she says that price matching is all the rage these days. “It pays (literally) to know a store’s policy on compensating shoppers who find better deals elsewhere. Walmart recently announced it will provide gift cards in the amount of the price difference, and Bed Bath and Beyond will even price match items found on Amazon.com,” she adds.

8. Pay with cash

Woroch knows it isn’t easy sticking to a budget and the holidays make the task even more challenging. “Paying for purchases with credit cards is risky since the ‘I’ll pay for it later’ mentality breeds overspending,” empathizes Woroch. “Opt to pay with cash and experience your hard-earned money disappear from your finger tips. This sight alone will make you think twice about unnecessary or overpriced purchases, and help you stick to your budget.”

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