Saturday, December 5, 2009

...Tis the Season for Overspending...

In these not so great financial times many of us might find comfort and connection in knowing things pretty much stink for almost everyone, almost everywhere.

I found someone’s ATM receipt yesterday and, of course, I read it before I ripped it and tossed the shreds. Someone withdrew a couple hundred dollars from their account leaving them with a balance of less than $100.

Let’s pretend it was for a bill or other necessary expense but if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, it was probably money for Christmas shopping. Let’s be honest: even the biggest of savers and most fiscally responsible among us have been known to lose their money mindful selves during the holiday season.

Darn the H1N1, can someone make a vaccination for over-spending?

Due to multiple scheduling conflicts my family and I celebrate “Christmas” during Thanksgiving, complete with gift exchange. The greatest benefit to this is that you’re done shopping just before all the stores start laying on the heavy holiday push tactics like the decorations and music. One store nearby actually had Halloween and Christmas decorations in the same aisle! I mean, dang, can Santa make his presence known via the Thanksgiving Day parade before we start up with the holiday hoopla?

If you’re still out there in the trenches, fighting the crowds for that perfect gift I hope you find the following ideas helpful:
  • There is no perfect gift- whatever you get, they'll complain anyway
  • Keep those arms akimbo- and never you mind that old lady you just knocked down for the last pink Snuggie; She was old, and her time was coming soon anyway.
  • Leave the kids at home. They just weigh you down and you need to be quick on your feet to snatch that last Zhu-Zhu Pet.
Oh, wait, this was supposed to be about smart spending during the holidays. Well then, I hope you find these ideas helpful instead:

Make your list and check it twice. Not everyone you have on your gift list should be getting a present. It’s okay to just send nice holiday cards to some of those people. Think about who your shopping for and why before you plunk down the money.

Set a budget and stick to it. I know everyone says that and it seems impossible, right? Not really. Just leave the credit cards at home. And decide before you leave the house how much you’ll spend for each person on your list.

Set a limit and stick to it. If you have a large family, everyone doesn’t need 12 gifts. Ask for wish lists with the understanding that it’s a list of hints, not demands. Or try the old Secret Santa route. Everyone picks a name or two, and shops for that person(s). I can say that I buy much nicer things since the bulk of my shopping is done for only two people.

Shop early and often. My mom taught me this trick: shop year round. If you pass something nice and priced right that you know someone will love but it’s July, pick it up anyway and save it for the holidays. Doing this all year will give you a nice pile of presents come December without any holiday pressure or price-hiking. Just make sure you keep the receipt; most stores are fairly lenient about returns after the holidays even if the receipt puts you past their regular return deadline. And don’t forget where you put your early stocking stuffers. Mom did that a lot, too.

Go where you are wanted. I mentioned that most stores are lenient about returns after Christmas but a few stores are jerk-wads all year round. (yeah you, Best Buy). I make a habit of not shopping at places with bad customer service. This means dirty stores, lower quality products, rude and ignorant salespeople that follow you around but then don't have any answers to your questions, and return policies that make you jump through hoops of fire.

And this applies to online shopping, too. If you have to call a number to get some kind of code before you can make your return, then buyer beware. I also don’t online shop at stores that have physical locations near me, but still don’t allow you to make returns to the store. (yeah you, Victoria’s Secret).

You will be amazed at how much money you save by simply avoiding places that don’t value your business. And I have yet to run out of places to shop using this method. In fact, I find myself exploring other stores and finding great places as a result, including the wonderful, small local store where I finally found the perfect undergarments. (Unlike some other stores I know that say they have a “perfect” fitting bra, but they lie. Yeah, I still mean you Victoria’s Secret!)

And last but never in the least~

Give Love on Christmas Day. It’s not just a lovely song recorded by The Temptations, it’s the least expensive way to ensure the most maximum impact. It lasts year round, reaches more people, fits everyone perfectly, and feels great when it’s returned!

Visit to find a better way to find comfort and to connect with others.

The Tempting Temptations "Give Love On Christmas Day"
Or the New Edition version if you grew up in the 80s

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