Smart Spending

Christmas Survival Guide – Making a Holiday List and Checking It Twice

One of the things that make holidays stressful is worrying about getting everything done, forgetting a gift, and spending money we know we don’t have.  It is too easy to go about gift and food buying without a plan and have to backtrack for exchanges because we didn’t know the right size for our impulse buy or we forgot to a certain ingredient in the recipe we planned to make.

One key to being more efficient with your time and freeing your mind from worry is to make a holiday list.  Once something makes it on “The List”, the nagging concern of forgetting that particular item is gone forever and will not be a recurring worry churning in your mind and blocking more constructive thoughts, like how to save money on your gift buying.  The List will also give you a great feeling of satisfaction and control as items are checked off and you see the list dwindling down to nothing.

In an earlier article, I suggested making a budget and designating how much you could reasonably afford to spend for each of the different categories of gift buying, food, decorating, travel, and parties.  However, as you find out in making out the holiday list—planning is one thing—implementing it is all together different.  The idiom “the devil is in the details” is actually very true.

Figuring out exactly how you are going to accomplish buying all of the food and the presents with the money you planned in the first step depends on how well you construct your list.  Without a holiday list, you’ll certainly waste time and money on gasoline, backtracking as you go randomly from store to store.

Save time and money by planning out your purchases at home by browsing through store ads, catalogs and even merchants’ websites.  With all of the resources available on the internet – gift guides, money saving recipes and crafting ideas, you’ll get great ideas on how much your purchases will cost along with ideas of ways to cut costs.  You can also do price comparisons and research the pros and cons of particular products so that you don’t end up buying the “dud” of the season that everyone has to exchange.  Before ordering on line or from a catalog, however, be sure to take into consideration the difference in prices in shipping versus the gas it will take to go to the store to pick it up. For many major retailers you can get the best of both worlds by picking your item out on line but saving on shipping by picking your item up at the store.

Now is the time to take stock of all the ingredients you will need for the food you plan to make, find out the sizes of those you plan to buy clothing for and map out your shopping route based on the location of each of the stores.

Prioritize your list and start buying for the most important people in your life first—your children, your spouse, your parents—before you decide to overspend on a gift for your co-workers.

Beware of the kinds of “eye candy” that retailers use to entice you to bust your budget and pull out “ye olde” credit card.  Having a plan and a list (along with a pair of blinders) will go a long way towards making both your holidays and more importantly your credit card balance less stressful in the months to come.