9 Ways to Keep Online Holiday Spending under Control This Year
It’s hard not to get caught up in the holiday spirit of giving and keep holiday spending under control.
In 2019, holiday retail sales grew 4.1% to $730.2 billion, and online and other non-store sales were up 14.6% compared to 2018, according to the National Retail Federation.¹
That’s why today’s holiday spending tips are important.
Predicting the 2020 holiday shopping season has been a bit more challenging since the CDC has labeled shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving as a high-risk activity due to the potential spreading of COVID-19.²
However, even with the risk, people are still planning to shop for the holidays – they will just shop differently.
The biggest holiday shopping change is the large shift to online shopping.
According to a recent survey by Convey, “Shoppers are planning to shop earlier and mostly online, and they’re conscious of COVID’s impact on retailers […]
- Nearly 4 in 10 consumers (39%) will start holiday shopping earlier this year, while 44% say COVID will have no impact on when they begin their gift-buying.
- 8 in 10 shoppers (82%) will do most of their holiday shopping online – and nearly 1 in 3 (30%) will do ALL of it online.”³
While a digital-first shopping holiday may be different, it may be better for your budget.
A study by First Insight found that the majority of consumers spend more money shopping in stores than they do online.⁴
First Insight reports, “89 percent of women and 78 percent of men who visit physical stores shared that they add additional items to their cart beyond their identified need. By comparison, a lower 67 percent of men and 77 percent of women reported adding extra items to their carts when shopping online.”⁵
With that being said, it is still easy to overspend while shopping online.
Keep reading for 9 holiday spending tips to keep your spending under control.
#1 Decide How Much You Will Spend
One of the top holiday spending tips is to decide in advance how much you will spend per person, and then create a budget.
Buying online can prevent impulse shopping, so search online for items within your price range.
If you do go shopping in stores, take your budget with you and stick to it. Or, if you already know what gift you want to purchase, avoid the urge to buy more and stick to the plan.
If you’ve already done some of your holiday shopping, not to worry. Just make sure you stay within your budget for the rest of your gifts.
#2 Prioritize Your Gift List
‘Most people spend more on immediate family than they do to friends and coworkers. Even if the smaller gifts are under $10, make sure you list who gets what amount.
Then, buy the most important purchases first. That way if you overspend or something comes up and you have to divert funds, you will have the most important gifts already purchased.
While prioritizing your list, see if you might be able to make some gifts instead of buying them.
#3 Check for Deals Before You Shop
Another way to keep holiday spending under control is to check out deals before you purchase.
Check out Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holiday deals ahead of time. When it comes time to shop those deals, resist the temptation to buy more (or to buy for yourself!).
Here are some Black Friday online shopping tips (and other online holiday spending tips) to help you save money:
- Avoid buying anything online until you have compared prices with other online retailers. Install a browser extension like PriceBlink, which shows you the price of the same product at various retailers, as well as coupon codes.
- Before you click buy, search for online coupon codes for the retailer on sites like RetailMeNot.
- For high-priced gifts on your list, sign up for deal alerts. The website camelcamelcamel.com is a free Amazon price tracker that will send you an alert when the product you want drops to the price you can afford.
#4 Shop in Advance
Chances are, if you wait until the day before Christmas to shop, you’ll end up spending more because, when you’re in a hurry, you are less likely to stick to a budget.
Whether online or in stores, shop for all your holiday gifts in advance. It will also take the stress off and allow you to enjoy the holiday season.
This year’s unique situation is actually making it easier to shop earlier rather than waiting for Black Friday.
This is because most retailers are not waiting until Black Friday to introduce holiday deals.
Yahoo Finance states, “Home Depot effectively canceled its traditional Black Friday this week. Instead, it will offer Black Friday discounts beginning in early November and continue the deals into December.”⁶
The Chicago Tribune reports, “Target plans special promotions Oct. 13 and 14, the same days Amazon will hold its annual Prime Day event, and Walmart is planning promotions Oct. 11 through 15. Amazon and Target are pitching it as a chance for customers to get started on holiday shopping.”⁷
If you wait for big sales on Black Friday, you may miss out on earlier, better sales.
Plus, the pandemic has resulted in lower inventory (so those hot toys may sell out earlier) and longer shipping times.
Both valid reasons to shop sooner rather than later.
#5 Use Your Credit Card Wisely
Think about this: If you were to charge $1,000 on holiday gifts, decorations, and food, what would the true cost be in the future?
If your credit card charges 18% interest per month, and you pay $50 each month, it might take up to 24 months to pay it off.
Do you really want to be paying for your 2020 holiday gifts in December of 2022? We doubt it.
If you plan on using your credit card to take advantage of cashback rewards or to earn airline miles, make it a point to pay it off ASAP.
One of the online holiday spending tips many people miss out on is using apps to earn money.
Similar to earning rewards from your credit card, cashback apps provide a kickback for using your credit card to shop online through their app.
For example, if you use your credit card to shop online through Rakuten, rather than the retailer’s website, Rakuten gives a percentage of the purchase back as real cash (a check or via PayPal).
Your future self will thank you for it!
#6 Take Advantage of Curbside Pickup
One of the easiest holiday spending tips to follow is to simply stay out of the stores because people tend to spend more due to impulse buying.
If you don’t have enough time to ship an item, take advantage of curbside pickup.
According to the UKG report Retailers Rethink Holiday Season Strategy, “COVID-19 gives curbside pickup a major boost in 2020: 4 in 5 retailers (83%) will offer curbside options this season—compared to just 44% in 2019 and 34% in 2018—while nearly half say all stores will offer curbside pickup (48%).”⁸
This allows you to get the item from a local store without going inside and spending money on things not on your list.
#7 Be Safe When Shopping Online
One of the most important holiday spending tips is to be safe when using your credit card and shopping online.
Credit card fraud is a real issue.
Avoid being a victim by making wise choices, such as using strong passwords and secure connections and avoiding public Wi-Fi networks.
Use these 14 Online Fraud Prevention Tips as a guide for online holiday spending.
#8 Use Your Credit Card Rewards to Purchase Gifts
Depending on your credit card rewards program, you might be able to redeem gift cards or cash to use for holiday gifts.
If this is an option, why not gift your niece or son a gift card to a major retailer? Or take the cash and apply it to your holiday purchase balance?
#9 Talk to Family and Friends about Gift Spending
Perhaps the best way to keep holiday spending under control is not to spend at all.
If you’re trying to save as much as you can for retirement or are working aggressively to pay off debt, talk to your family about not exchanging gifts this year.
You never know – other family members or friends might be in the same boat you are and will be relieved not to exchange gifts.
If the family isn’t too keen on doing away with gift-giving, consider asking to give and receive practical gifts rather than luxury items. With the pandemic, more people want gifts that are more practical.
Another option is to ask for cash instead of gifts, and then apply the cash toward your debt or savings.
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