We are officially in the season of spending. Between gift giving, holiday travel, and hosting family meals, the expenses at this time of the year add up.
We tend to be extra busy throughout the holidays, so it’s easy to not take the time to make sure we are saving money where we can. Here are some ways you can take control of your spending instead of your spending taking control of you and your money.
- Do a complete financial forecast. Set a budget for expenses such as: gifts, travel, parties, holiday wardrobe, shipping packages and even postage stamps for cards. Once you have that list, price everything out and total it up. If you are over the amount you can afford, see where you can cut back. Usually the amount you spend on gifts is a good place to start. Having this knowledge and plan set in place before the spending season gets underway is the first step to saving money.
- Save your receipts for price adjustments. If you make a purchase and that item goes down in price within a certain period (usually 10-14 days), larger stores will usually refund the difference between what you paid and the new sale price, if you ask. I have saved thousands of dollars doing this over my lifetime. Most stores just need you to bring in the receipt to get your refund. This is an especially good tip for this time of the year when prices keep going down as we get closer to Christmas.
- Use coupons to save online. You should always look for a coupon code before you make any online purchase. There are thousands of codes you can find on everything from clothes to travel. It takes a minute to check and the savings can be well worth it.
- If you are buying an item that qualifies for a rebate, make sure you get an extra copy of the receipt and save any necessary papers. This will be helpful whether the item is for you or for someone else.
- If you are buying anything electronic, find out if the store is selling any "open boxed" items. These are items that were either floor samples or a return, so they are usually drastically marked down in price. Just make sure they offer a warranty and a return policy if there is a problem.
- Book your holiday travel now. Waiting until the last minute for holiday travel can mean two things: higher prices and less of a selection. Traveling on the actual holiday can reduce your airfare. This works particularly well if you are traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast. An 8 a.m. flight will get you there in time for lunch.
- For wardrobes, look to resale shops. You can find the best deals on party dresses and outfits for the entire family. I am a big fan of resale and consignment shops. The secret to saving: shop now before the best deals are gone!
- If you are going to be shipping packages, the earlier you send the more you will save. If you wait until days before you need the packages to arrive, you will end up paying rush delivery fees.
- Remember the holidays are about family, friends and time together. Don’t get caught up in the financial stresses that often take away from enjoying the holiday season.
Jeanette Pavini is an Emmy Award winning journalist specializing in consumer news and protection. She is the author of “The Joy of $aving: Money Lessons I Learned From My Italian-American Father & 20 Years as a Consumer Reporter.” Jeanette is a regular contributor to TheStreet. Her work includes reporting for CBS, MarketWatch, WSJ Sunday, and USA Today. Jeanette has contributed to “The Today Show” and a variety of other media outlets. You can follow her money saving tips and ways to give back on Facebook: Jeanette Pavini: The Joy of $aving Community. Find links to her social media and her book at JeanettePavini.com.