Top 10 Do’s and Don’t’s of Christmas Shopping
Don’t let pushy crowds, financial woes and the stress of finding the perfect gift transform you into the Grinch this December. Holiday shopping should be an enjoyable, spirited experience. Take a page out of Santa’s playbook this Christmas, with our helpful list of shopping dos and don’ts guaranteed to make your seasonal spend easy on your pocketbook and your sanity.
1. Don’t Buy Your Books, Movies or Music in the Store, Ever!
Why? Simply put, buying books, music and movies is always cheaper online. Sites like Amazon.ca or Indigo.ca offer most books, including current best-sellers, at half the U.S. cover price. Comparatively, you can almost always expect to pay full U.S. cover price at an Indigo retail store, even if the Indigo website offers them at a fraction of the cost.
Likewise, video games, Blu-rays and DVDS, though not as cheap as books, can often be found on special at Amazon.ca, and save your anywhere from 10 to 50 per cent. Music, if purchased digitally through the iTunes store, is usually 10 to 20 per cent less than buying the actual CD. And best of all, these online stores usually offer free shipping.
If you still prefer the actual experience of shopping in store, bring a notepad or smartphone and jot down the prices of the gifts you like, then go home and compare.
2. Do Set a Budget
If your bank account is already channeling Scrooge, it’s time to take control and adopt the b-word – budget! Creating a computer-based budget in Excel can curb overspending and relieve monetary stress. Set a spending limit, keep a running tally of your purchases and the cash you have remaining.
If you’re permanently attached to your smartphone, download a free financial app such as Mint.com that will keep you updated on the go. Having visual reminders of your outgoing expenditures is a great way to squash shopping stress and stay on budget.
3. Do Always Check Online First!
Online shopping is not only convenient, fast and stress-free (imagine, no spirit-deflating parking space battles!), it’s also chock full of amazing deals. Starting on Black Friday (the Friday following American Thanksgiving), huge savings, and free or discounted shipping costs are only a mouse click away.
And if you love to comparison shop, sites such as PriceGrabber.ca can fuel your bargain hunting frenzy. What’s not to love? Just be sure to shop on secure websites only (look for https in the website’s URL) and keep an eye on your budget’s bottom line, so you don’t get too credit-happy.
4. Don’t Ignore New Ways to Shop (and Save!)
Canadian group shopping websites such as Groupon and Living Social can offer money-saving deals on unique purchases and experiences. It’s not uncommon to find an item or activity on these sites listed at a fraction of its original cost. Join the savvy shopping brigade and save big bucks on gifts – all without enduring freezing temperatures and rude mall patrons.
5. Don’t Take Credit Cards To the Mall
For many Canadians, the stomach-churning reality of the damage that’s been done to their bank accounts only becomes clear when their mailboxes are overrun by bills in January. Avoid the New Year financial hangover – use cash or debit cards when shopping in person. When you actually see money leaving your wallet, you’re more likely to reign in your spree.
6. Do Make a List
Making a list and checking it twice keeps you organized, less stressed and less likely to waste time running between stores. Before you spend a dime, draft your shopping list on paper, your computer or within a smart phone app (the Christmas List app is a lifesaver at $1.99). Include family, friends, acquaintances…anyone that you want to remember this holiday season. Add what you would like to buy for each recipient and you’re halfway there to Kris Kringle supremacy.
7. Don’t Procrastinate
It’s not a myth – the variety and quality of merchandise on store shelves plunges as Christmas creeps closer. Don’t be left with slim pickings. Get into the game early to take advantage of sales and selection. Want another reason to start early? Many Canadian stores are launching their festive bargains on Black Friday, so the earlier you start checking off that shopping list, the better it will be for your wallet and your sanity.
8. Don’t Forget Impromptu Gifts
Friends and family always pop in unannounced during the holidays. Be prepared and avoid the fear that a ringing doorbell can create. Have wine, chocolates or gift cards wrapped and on hand as last-minute presents, just in case. A little preparation can eliminate a potentially embarrassing one-sided gift exchange.
9. Don’t Feel Bad About Making Things Easy
If you can’t think of a present that will knock their socks off, try a gift card to their favourite store, coffee shop or restaurant, or make a donation to a charity in their name. Remember, it’s the thought that counts and such tokens of appreciation are generous reminders that you care.
10. Do Read The Return Policy
Hold on! Did you take a moment to become acquainted with the store’s return policy? Always ask for a gift receipt and information on returning items before you exit the store. Shopping online? Check the fine print before cashing out. By doing this extra legwork, your loved ones will be guaranteed the gift that they really want – even if they have to exchange it first.
Calling all coupon clippers! We’re collecting the best budget-friendly flyers from neighbourhoods across Canada and sharing them on our website. Check out the weekly bargains in your own hometown!