Smart consumer tips and strategies from Eyewitness News Online
Do you have too many people on your list to buy for, and not nearly enough money? According to Matt Coffin with LowerMyBills.com, "More than a third of the United States is planning to spend more on holiday shopping than they actually have and can afford in their holiday budget." That can add up to holiday headaches. We have some tips to help make sure you celebrate instead of suffer.
Happy, Affordable Holidays
Sit down and make a list. Be sure to include what you are going to buy, who you're buying it for and what you're able to spend.
Stick to Cash
Coffin says people who shop with cash tend to spend less overall. Coffin says, "People who don't use cash tend to spend 30% more than people who shop with cash."
Prepaid Credit Cards
If you don't want to carry a lot of cash with you, consider using a prepaid credit card. That way, you designate a specific amount to spend and don't go overboard.
We also have some cost-conscious gift alternatives that are so appealing, even those with big budgets might want to try them.
These special gift-giving ideas come from a mom whose focus on frugality sparked a Web site to showcase her ideas. Kim Tilley hopes they'll be a helping hand for the holidays.
Her first recommendation--try cutting back on the number of gifts you buy. (Her kids typically get three each year.) And don't let a lack of funds get you down. "Focus on keeping an open mind, being very flexible in your thinking, and looking at it as a challenge, instead of something to get upset about."
Here are some of Kim's gift-giving savings solutions. You can find complete descriptions and instructions on how to make the following gifts (and more) on Kim's Web site. (We've provided a link following our list.)
Soap crayons (fun at bath time!)
Themed gift baskets
Felt magnets (a "big hit" Kim says)
Wreaths / ornaments (pinecones and twigs go a long way!)
Mini-stockings (endless possibilities!)
Personalized stationary (themed for hobbies, careers, events)
"Movie night" bag (free video rental certificate and snacks)
Cookies / candy from a family recipe
Placemats (feature your kids' art projects / drawings!)
For more penny-pinching presents and cost-conscious advice, including recipes and instructions, click here to check out Kim's Web site.
STOREBOUGHT When buying gifts, shop when and where prices are best - clearance items (throughout the year), after holidays, dollar stores and discount chains.
Bargain basements, outlets and other discount dealers are a great way to boost your buying power, but you have to be a savvy shopper to avoid potential pitfalls. Here's some advice, according to the Better Business Bureau:
Check it twice
Check out the quality of the merchandise. Is it outdated, expired, damaged, etc?
Look closely at clothing - are there any stains or tears? At factory outlets, look for items with labels that have been cut or marked. Those are usually the real deal, meaning the clothes came from the retail boutique. Some items are made solely for the factory store and may be of inferior quality.
What are return policies, if any? For outlets - can items be conveniently returned to the full-price branch? That's important if the outlet is far away. Ask for gift receipts for easier returns.
Try out items you're thinking about buying, especially electronic goods. Make sure they are in working condition and aren't missing any parts.
GET MORE FOR YOUR MONEY
Read more smart consumer tips and strategies from Fox11 Eyewitness News Online
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