4 Ways to Save on Your Holiday Shopping Now

Art Img 7 TipsIt is hard to believe, but the holiday shopping season is here. If you’re like most families, holiday shopping can be a strain on the budget. Many shoppers also fear looking cheap when passing out gifts, which can lead to over-spending and blowing the budget.

According to the American Research Group, Americans on average spent $801 on Christmas shopping in 2013. That kind of number will have a big impact on a budget. If you’re looking for ways to cut down the cost of holiday shopping and still get great gifts, these tips will help.

Start now:

The best way to save money on holiday shopping is to start early. There is a belief that the best deals are available around Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and that is not always the case. Instead of waiting, be on the lookout for even bigger deals that might be hitting stores sooner. The ever expanding influence of online shopping has moved many retailers to begin pushing major holiday campaigns back as early as Halloween, if not earlier. The added benefit is being able to avoid the craziness that Black Friday shopping brings.

Check out the Dollar Stores:

It might not be too common, but shopping at discount or Dollar stores can be a great way to shave some spending off of your gift budget. You might not find your gifts there, but you can probably save on other holiday-related items, such as wrapping paper, gift bags and decorations.

While they might not have good options for a traditional gift, Dollar stores can be a great option for gag gifts, office Christmas parties and white elephant gift exchanges. Beyond that, Dollar stores are a useful alternative for party favors or decorations for parties you may be hosting. Since many of those items will likely be thrown away anyway, there is no point in spending more than you need to.

Shop at stores that match prices:

Price matching has become increasingly expected as many brick and mortar retailers deal with the presence of online shopping. While not every store offers price matching, it can be a great way to save money when added to your shopping strategy. The trick is to know the terms and conditions of the given retailer you’re shopping at. Some will match any retailer while others will not match online-only retailers.

If you have a smartphone, bring it with you when you go shopping. There are many apps available now, from Amazon to others, which allow you to scan the item to see what is charged for it elsewhere. Add that to your arsenal to save money while shopping. Lastly, make sure to check the retailer’s site itself to make sure it’s not offering a cheaper price online than in-store. If you find a discrepancy, you can always ask for a price match, or at least allow a free shipping option.

Watch the daily deal sites:

Like the Dollar store option, daily deal sites may not be commonly thought of as options for gift shopping but they can be a great way to save money. Many daily deal sites regularly sell significantly reduced deals for national retailers that can be great options for presents. They might also give you ideas for items that you can then go track down in local stores.

The problem with daily deal sites is they have a limited window in which you can get the deal. This can definitely pose a problem when shopping for that special someone. However, there are options available if you missed out on the deal you were looking for. CoupRecoup, for example, allows those who have bought deals they’re unable to use to sell them. This can be a great way to potentially score a deal on an item you were looking for.

The holiday shopping season can be a stressful one, especially on a tight budget. By using some simple tips like the ones mentioned above you should be able to shave some money off your holiday shopping budget, and maybe even have some leftover for yourself.

Make gifts merrier with First Financial VISA® Gift Cards and currency envelopes! Available in denominations of $20 to $500, a First Financial VISA® Gift Card* is the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday list at a small cost of $3.95 per card. Gift card envelopes are just $1 and currency envelopes are free (limited 5 per person)!** All proceeds from the envelopes sales go directly to the First Financial Foundation.

Check out First Financial’s Holiday Savings Club Account – don’t put yourself into debt over holiday spending, save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!***

  • Open at any time
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
  • Accounts automatically renew each year
  • Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
  • Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account

*If the gift card is inactive for 360 days, an inactivity fee of $2.50 per month will be charged to the card – starting from the date of activation. If the card is lost or stolen, the replacement fee is $15.00.** 5 currency envelopes limit per person or purchase 10 currency envelopes for $2. ***A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

Click here to view the original article source written by John Schmoll of U.S.News.

Affordable Holiday Gift Ideas

holiday-shopping-womenWant to buy for everyone on your holiday list, but don’t want to go broke while doing so? Here are some tips to keep your holidays fun yet affordable!

  • Make a list. Many people spend as they go, buying presents when they see them and end up surprised when the bills arrive in January. You can avoid this problem by creating a list in advance of who you plan to buy gifts for, and you should budget for each. Then, check this total against your holiday savings to decide if you need to adjust your spending.
  • Be creative. As you begin your shopping, remember that thoughtfulness really does count. Instead of searching for one expensive present, you may be able to save money, and give the perfect gift, by putting together a number of small items that relate to a loved one’s special interest. Someone who truly loves chocolate, for example, might appreciate a small basket full of treats you’ve chosen for them. Anyone with an interest in sewing or crafts could probably use a gift bag with a fresh stock of supplies for the new year. By putting together a lot of inexpensive items, you may be able to save money and show how much you care.
  • Hit the kitchen. If you are a good cook, or you simply have a foolproof recipe, gifts of food are inexpensive and very popular. Whether you give a mixture of great holiday cookies or your grandmother’s prize-winning banana bread, your friends and family are sure to welcome the effort. In fact, you might not need to cook at all. If you’re fortunate enough to have some great family recipes that have received compliments over the years, write them out on attractive cards and tie them with a festive ribbon. These great gifts will spread the joy of delicious cooking throughout your circle of friends.
  • Good deeds are gifts, too. Many of the people on your list may value a favor done for them more than any expensive present. Couples with young children would probably be delighted if you offer to babysit so they can have some time together. You can surprise a friend with a very busy schedule by promising to do the weekly shopping for a month. Present each recipient with a beautiful card describing the good deed to be performed. Such efforts cost nothing more than a few hours of your time, but they are greatly appreciated.
  • Check your list twice. First, plan and purchase all you need for the lower-cost presents recommended here. Then, when you move on to higher-priced presents, keep an eye out for sales and comparison shop to get the best prices. You may find you can get the items on your list for less.
  • Consult your financial planner. These ideas will help limit your spending during the busy holiday season. Your local financial planner can offer great advice on how to manage your money throughout the year. Be sure to turn to him or her for answers to all your financial questions. Financial planners promote personal and professional financial security all year round. If you would like to set up a no-cost consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your brokerage, investments, and/or savings goals, contact us at 732.312.1565 or stop in to see us!*

Click here to view the article source.

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC , a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.