5 Holiday Shopping Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them

The holiday season is known to be the most wonderful time of year, but for many it can also be the most stressful. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales are expected to exceed $655 billion this year. Whether it’s the pricey gifts, travel expenses, or crowds and long lines, the holidays can bring out the grinch in all of us. For those who want to skip the stresses associated with the holiday season, here are five shopping pitfalls and ways to avoid them.

Paying for shipping.

Shipping plays an important role in a customer’s willingness to buy. A great deal can quickly turn into a dud when the shipping costs are calculated. To dodge delivery fees, refer to websites like FreeShipping.org and watch out for retailers that offer free shipping. And don’t forget, many retailers will waive shipping minimums  during Free Shipping Day on December 16 and guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve.

Spending more to save more.

Retailers do an excellent job of tricking consumers into spending more than they intended. Tiered deals that offer a “dollar off” amount — $5 off $25, $20 off $100 or $40 off $200 — often mislead consumers into thinking they should spend more to save more. Instead, make a specific list of items you want to buy and use Coupon Sherpa to find better deals from top brands. Additionally, the coupon site has a downloadable app and a holiday coupons page to help you find the best discounts this season.

Failing to create and track your budget.

It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday frenzy of overspending, so setting a realistic holiday budget early on can save you the burden of debt when the season is over. It’s also helpful to track everything you spend so you don’t bust your carefully planned budget. From the turkey to gift wrap and Christmas lights, money seems to disappear faster during the holidays than any other time of year! Apps like Mint.com will help you track each purchase, organize your spending into categories, and notifes you when your account is running low.

Overlooking hidden expenses.

There are many hidden costs during the holidays and it’s important to remember seasonal spending includes more than just gifts. Are you flying somewhere for the holidays? If so, make sure to budget for such travel expenses as snacks and water, which can cost you a premium at airport shops.  Postage is another oft-overlooked expense for families distributing photos or cards this year. And if you’re attending any holiday parties, be sure to set aside money for host or hostess gifts.

Making all purchases on your credit card

Although many shoppers plan on using their credit cards to make purchases, there is a risk to solely relying on your card. Using a credit card to make purchases during the holidays makes it easy to overspend, and a new year doesn’t start out well with heaps of debt accumulated from holiday expenses. Unless you can quickly pay off holiday purchases, use your credit card as little as possible. You’ll be doing your finances a favor by using cash and by preparing a budget ahead of time to figure out what you’re able to afford.

Andrea Woroch

Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who regularly contributes to leading national and regional news stories. She has appeared on NBC's Today Show, Dr. OZ, Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, CNN, ABC News with Diane Sawyer, and been quoted in New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Better Homes & Garden and many others. Andrea also enjoys writing articles for various personal finance and lifestyle websites and blogs. Andrea is passionate about sharing ideas and tips to help you live on less without having to sacrifice. She says making a few small tweaks to daily and monthly spending is all you need to do to achieve your dreams within your means. Follow Andrea on Facebook and Twitter for daily savings tips and check back for new videos, magazine stories and blog posts all about saving money!

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