8 Tips to Keep Your Holiday Shopping Focused on Saving the Most Money

1211-women-holiday-shopping-lgnWe all love and hate shopping during the holidays, and it’s important to shop both safely and affordably during the season. Here are some ways to stay focused to keep you and your budget in-check this holiday season!

The National Retail Foundation’s annual survey shows that holiday spending is at an all-time high.

  • Americans spent 3.8% more in 2013 than in 2012 (to the tune of $601.8 billion total).
  • November and December spending last year totaled 19.2% of annual sales nationwide.

This is our national spending forecast — what we can expect if we “go with the flow.” The good news is, unlike with our local weather forecast, we can change our personal holiday spending forecast if we resolve to do things differently this year!

While it may seem like an oxymoron to attempt to save on holiday spending, experts say it can be done. Here are tips that will help:

1. Coupon for holiday “varieties” of regular household items.

It’s always nice to have holiday-themed paper goods, towels, candles and other festive items on hand for guests and visiting relatives. The good news with these items is that, unlike strings of lights and mistletoe, if you have extras you still can use them all year long.

Here are some ideas:

  • Paper goods: Paper towels, napkins, party plates of various sizes, wrapping paper
  • Plastic goods: Festive flatware, plastic cups (go for one-size-fits-all to save), gift bags, ribbons and bows
  • Tea lights and candles: So long as you enjoy the scents, you can use these all year.

Note: If you dislike using holiday themed items after the holidays, then opt for holiday solid colors (red, green, blue, white, etc.) so if you have extras to use up, they won’t be so noticeable.

2. Consider hosting an in-home sales event to reduce the cost of gifts for everyone.

If you have a friend who is an independent sales rep for a popular line of jewelry, accessories, kitchenware, skincare or scrapbooking supplies, consider hosting a pre-holiday party in your home. You’ll save on gifts and so will your friends — and your sales rep friend will make their holiday quota!

As a party host or hostess, you can expect to receive:

  • Free hostess gifts
  • One-on-one time with the consultant for personalized gift recommendations
  • Deeper discounts on your purchases (Discounts typically escalate with higher totals on party purchases).

Your attendees can expect to receive:

  • Attendee free samples
  • Discounts on purchases

3. If you can’t find the item at the price you want, go ahead and wait it out.

You just never know what the holiday shopping mania will bring. If there’s an item you want but the price isn’t right, don’t buy it.

  • What to do: Wait…chances are the price will not go up before the holidays arrive in earnest, and it might decrease as merchants become more eager to move their holiday inventory.

4. Don’t fall for “door busters.”

A “door buster” is a marketer’s term for a low-priced item that is so enticing, it can bring customers to the store all by itself. But experts caution against assuming that just because an item is advertised at an “all-time low” for that store, do not assume that is the lowest price you can find!

  • What to do: Use your price comparison tools and coupons to “challenge” that price—see if you can find the item for lower somewhere else. Download the “ShopSavvy” app to scan an item and see other prices at surrounding stores!

5. Wait for holiday clearance sales to start.

Traditionally, many merchants begin their holiday clearance sales right before the holidays actually begin. Once the clearance sales start, prices on those items will continue to decline until the inventory is all gone, or the new sales cycle starts.

  • What to do: Research when your favorite merchants will begin their clearance sales (often you can find this by signing up for their email newsletters or following them on social media). Then plan your shopping accordingly.

6. Watch social media for “flash” coupons, deals and offers.

As we become increasingly social media-driven, merchants are using the power of free social media-based advertising to draw in customers.

  • What to do: For items you really want, be sure to follow those merchants on Facebook and Twitter (you can set up your social media accounts so they deliver alerts as they happen to make sure you don’t miss an offer). Also be sure to sign up for Amazon’s Lightning Deals.

7. When asking for price matching, don’t forget about online store offers.

During the holiday crush, many brick-and-mortar merchants rely on holiday sales to close out the year in the black. (Remember, 19.2% of all annual spending happens in November and December!). So not only will many retailers offer price matching guarantees, but often these apply to competitors’ prices both online and offline.

  • What to do: If you see a low price online offer, bring in the proof and ask the merchant to honor it.

8. Sign up for the holiday store credit card and promotional offers.

Nearly 20% of annual purchases are made during the holidays, so the holidays represent a merchant’s best chance to attract new customers and build long-term customer loyalty. So prepare for retailers to compete by offering mouth-watering incentives to sign up for their in-store promotional offers, including freebies with purchase, discounts when signing up for a new line of store credit and more.

  • What to do: Take the offers, discounts, deals and freebies! Pay for what you owe, then stash those cards away until the holidays arrive again (or even better, cut them up so you won’t be tempted).

Need some extra cash for the holidays?  Check out First Financial’s Holiday Loan Special here for the 2014 holiday season! Fixed rate of 10.9% APR – click here to learn more about this limited time offer and apply online today.*

The perfect way to save for your holiday expenses is by opening a Holiday Club Account right here at First Financial! No need to put yourself into debt over holiday spending – simply 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

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness. Maximum 12 month term. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a holiday loan and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth of Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. Cannot be combined with any other offer. Promotional period 11/1/14 to 1/31/15. See credit union for details. **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 courtesy of thekrazycouponlady.com.

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.

Holiday Shopping Budgeting Tips

holiday_budget_630x420We’d like to thank everyone who participated in our Holiday Facebook Contest and shared your unique ways on how you budget yourself for holiday shopping. Congratulations to our Facebook Contest winner, Phyllis Ann Taylor, who earned a $75 VISA Gift Card for the holiday season. Here is what she shared:

“Set a firm budget that you can afford. Then list the gifts you need to purchase, remember to calculate wrapping, travel, luncheons, office grab bags, etc. If you start early and take advantage of coupons, etc. you will probably surprise yourself. Stop spending when you reach your limit and get creative! Give of yourself instead of gifting purchased items if necessary. Merry Christmas!”

We received so many great holiday budgeting tips so we thought we’d share them with everyone!

  • Barbara L.: I use the same list each year, adding or deleting as needed. I shop all year at sales for those items I know will be appreciated by the person who receives it. I don’t like to buy gifts just for the sake of giving a gift. I seek things special to their interests. I don’t buy for the youngsters until a few months before Christmas so I can decide upon that year’s “must have” for the children. Money is put in cards for the older children during the year so I don’t get a big hit in December.
  • Lisa B.: We make our list of those we buy gifts for and budget cash spending only, no credit cards, and no more than half of one month’s income.
  • Jennifer M.: I make my list early in the year. Starting in June I buy one gift per pay period. This allows me to stay debt free and not feel the pressure of it all coming out at once. Happy Holidays!
  • Susan R.: Our family makes a list of the most wanted items we would like for the holidays then use our holiday account that we’ve set aside and have continually paid into. We also shop around for sales and those pre-holiday deals like Black Friday or Cyber Monday to further help us save.
  • Francine O.: I shop for sales, use coupons, and to look for the best deals to save me money — that is how I budget myself for holiday shopping.
  • Teri S.: I’m fortunate in that I get “longevity pay” from work and that is my Christmas money!
  • Jamie D.: First Financial has become my newest bank with savings and checking accounts and I can’t wait to apply for the Visa credit card because it has great rates!!!
  • Alice W.: I use my First Financial Christmas Club. If I need any additional money, I use part of my income tax return. If I use my credit card I pay the Christmas expenses in full when the bill comes.
  • Melissa S.: I normally keep a list, and put a little bit away each pay check (pay cash for everything)! We also set limits with each other, so I can be budget conscious with everyone. I think next year I’ll open an FFFCU Christmas Club to help me budget even better!
  • Zanada J.: I give friends and family gift cards to stores that I know they enjoy shopping at AND coupons for that store. The best deals are ALWAYS after Christmas. Happy Holidays!
  • Tom S.: We utilize a Christmas Club account every year. The Christmas Club is our budget and it makes shopping a breeze.
  • Kelly Ann: I start writing my list in September and every pay period I spend a set amount of money on Christmas gifts. I do it little by little, so that I’m not relying on credit cards or putting myself in a bad financial situation, and I stick to the weekly budget that I set so that I don’t go overboard.
  • Susan C.: I use my First Financial Credit Union Christmas Club!
  • Terry D.: Budgeting is easy….you figure out how much money you have left after the bills are paid. Since we are on a “budget” for everything, birthday gifts and Christmas gifts all get factored in with the rest of the household expenses. One way or the other, everyone wins! Happy Holidays to everyone and especially my FFFCU family – my son has been blessed to have become a member through his auto loan, savings account and his Rutgers student loans as well. We will always remain a part of the best Credit Union there is!
  • Erin W.: I always open up a holiday club account in October every year with a certain amount and I only spend that amount. When I get the check in October I start then and just use that money and ONLY that money.
  • Patty B.: I set a certain dollar limit for each person’s gift and stick to it.
  • Margaret P.: I try to buy gifts that are practical and within budget. I allot an amount to spend on each recipient and stick to it because I don’t want to pay for Christmas long after the decorations are down.
  • Aggie R.: I set a reasonable dollar amount per child, all equal. Then I purchase one main item with that. No small cutesy, seasonal items I used to feel pressured to buy — it is all about the reason for the season! Last year I made homemade bath scrubs and that went over well with my daughters! I appreciate home made gifts and the effort it takes to make them.
  • Lynette B.: I never buy anything that is full price. I cut coupons, look for early bird specials, and I DO go shopping on Black Friday. I’m usually home by 8:00am with lots of bargains. My children are older so we really don’t go crazy at Christmas – they get everything they need during the year. I usually buy one large gift for each of my children and then a few little things. My husband and I don’t exchange, we save our money for a trip in the springtime to go visit both of our elderly parents who both live in Florida right around the corner from each other. For friends and other family members…I love to bake!!!
  • Joshua E.: I make sure I plan well ahead for all the shopping that I will do by setting a budget for all gifts, then searching for the best deals!
  • Stacy M.: I have a holiday club through First Financial that I set up years ago. It makes saving so much easier for the holidays!
  • Maria S.: It’s really hard to budget myself on shopping for my son so I don’t let myself go to the toy department in any store so I’m not tempted! The temptation is tough to fight!!!!
  • KellieRose W.: I don’t buy anything that is full price and I save gift cards all year to use for holiday shopping!
  • Susan P.: I save a certain amount every month so when December comes, I have what I need to buy the gifts I need.
  • Jennifer M.: Shop gradually don’t save it for last minute!
  • Paula P.: I start buying gifts early.
  • Joanne P.: I love the Direct Deposit to the Holiday Club and I love getting the money deposited right into my checking account in October! Makes shopping a lot easier!
  • Cindy W.: I save by not eating out as much!
  • Ann S.: I always budget myself very well and I never fall short of money because I have First Financial to fall back on. Happy Holidays to all of you.
  • Lois T.: I don’t buy more than I can pay off! First Financial’s easy to navigate web page makes it easy to keep track.
  • Ajane D.: I make sure I purchase all the necessities first and if I have extra money then I buy some new clothes or cosmetics. Last holiday I got an extra cash bonus from work and I gave some money to my mom. I always share because it makes me happy!
  • Laurie D.: My husband and I have 3 children and 1 granddaughter. In order for us to have enough money to purchase holiday gifts we start a savings club at the beginning of each year. Then we take what was saved and divide it amongst them. We try and purchase the things they need most. Although it’s a hard time of the year, we love Christmas and make the best of it.
  • Marcy V.: New this year, I put all my silver change into a big jar all year long. In November I turned it into cash at a machine. This year I netted $316.42. This will allow me to get at least seven or eight decent gifts (on sale of course)!
  • Michelle J.: List, limit, leave! Make a list for who you need to shop for, decide a dollar limit, leave the store once you get what is on your list so you are not tempted to impulse buy!
  • Jess E.: I budget myself by starting to shop before the holiday season so my wallet isn’t hit all at once!
  • Joe V.: I budget myself for holiday shopping by starting to buy some gifts as early as October through November. Then by December I have half of my shopping done, and know how much I’ll have in my budget for the up to the last minute shopping!
  • Joanne O.: I budget my holiday spending by always having a Holiday Club. I save $50-$100 per week and usually have enough left over to treat my husband and I to a little vacation also!
  • Pamela G.: Have been a credit union member since I began my career as an educator with the Toms River schools — loyalty with this credit union has its rewards. I do my Christmas shopping early and pace myself so that I don’t incur a huge debt. I always look for gifts for family and friends and buy when I see what is suitable for each person. This way I don’t feel a financial crunch all at once and it works for me.
  • Karen L.: I put $100 a month in my holiday savings so by October 1st I have $1200! I also buy gifts as I see them through the year – though I tend to spend more that way!
  • Debbie T.: I always have a First Financial Holiday Club and always stay within that budget, deciding ahead of time how much will be spent on each person.
  • Brownie’s Woodcrafts: My best plan involves participating in local craft shows to help shoppers buy great products made in the USA.
  • Saul H.: I budget for holiday shopping with sales, coupons, comparison shopping, rewards points, bargain hunting as a sport and saving on a regular basis to fund what I want to purchase.
  • Judy B.: I shop all year long and try to find the perfect gift for everyone. I splurge as long as I know it will make the recipient happy. Spreading the generosity throughout the year is a lot easier on my budget.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and receive the most recent information about First Financial including monthly trivia, seminars, financial tips, event information, promotions, and so much more! Thank you again for participating and on behalf of everyone at First Financial we wish you all a very happy holiday season!