How to Maximize Your Holiday Budget

While we’re not usually ones to love cold weather, we have to admit that this time of year has its perks––like all of the upcoming holidays! You know what comes with the holidays, don’t you? Shopping deals. If you’re anything like us, you probably get a little distracted by all the sales and end up with questionable purchases that aren’t good for gifting, but also aren’t worth keeping for yourself. (We won’t tell anyone about your dubious mermaid-sequined Nicholas Cage throw pillow from Prime Day if you don’t spill the beans on our Cake Icing Gun...we were leaning in hard to The Great British Baking Show for a minute, okay?)

Anyway, you get the idea––everyone’s blown their budgets in the name of a so-called “great deal” at least once. For the sake of your wallet, we’ve compiled our top tips to help you get a grip and make a plan before the onslaught of holiday discounts come your way. So, let’s check out...er, check it out, shall we?

Make A List of Names & Ideas

This might seem obvious, but have you truly considered who you’ll be buying for this holiday? For many of us, the office Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange has been nixed. Yet we all know people who deserve an extra-special present after the hard times they’ve had this year. In the past, you might have spent some of your budget on trinkets for acquaintances, but this holiday feels like a good time to shower that generosity on the people who really matter to you. Needless to say, it’s more important than ever to tip anyone who works for you or provides you with a service come Christmastime. As the Friends episode warns us all: baking cookies is not going to cut it for your superintendent!

All of these things mean you’ll need to rethink who you’re buying for, what they’d like to have, and what you’re willing to spend on them. On that note: does your brother really want another sweater? Will your best friend actually use that jar of bath salts? If they do want these things, then by all means, go for it. But if your present has the potential to become one more item cluttering their home (and what home isn’t more cluttered these days?) then your go-to gift might not be the best choice. Instead, try thinking about the lives and hobbies of your giftees. They might have decided that they don't get the same joy from old pastimes anymore, or maybe they’ve picked up a new skill in lockdown like banjo strumming, Portuguese language, birdwatching––you get the idea.

Careful consideration is the most important aspect of good gifting, and well-chosen presents are the ones that make the most out of your budget. If someone isn’t going to like (or use) what you bought them, then it’s a waste of money all around.

Start Looking for Discounts Right Now

The pandemic has shaken up retailers both large and small, which means discounts have been deeper and more frequent than they were last year. While this results in deals for consumers, it also makes it challenging to know when you’ll see the lowest prices on the items you really want...and when to click “purchase.” One way to make certain you don’t miss a great deal is to look at a company’s promotional messaging. If you receive an email that states the discounts you’re seeing now are the same as what you can expect for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, don’t wait. Holding out for steeper reductions could backfire, particularly if you’re after specific, popular items that could sell out.

That said, if you decide to hold out for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, try not to buy just for the sake of getting a deal. It’s easy to get excited about the money you’re supposedly saving, until you realize that no one wants that item anyway (ahem, the sequined Nick Cage pillow, ahem). So, stick to your list and don’t get distracted. Buying something simply because it’s on sale creates near-instantaneous buyer’s remorse and blows your budget all in one fell swoop.

Consider Shipping Costs and Delays

Another reason not to delay your holiday shopping: shipping costs. Procrastinators––you know who you are––holding out until the last minute before buying gifts will end up spending a fortune to get their presents delivered in time. Even the non-dawdlers are apt to pay more in shipping fees due to extremely high demand this year that will only increase during the holiday season. Why? Because loved ones who normally offer gifts in person will be shipping their prezzies instead. Put off your shopping and you’ll end up paying as much for shipping as you did for the gift itself, a truly nauseating prospect for budget-minded folks.

Let’s get something else clear. Having gifts delivered in time for Christmas was a gamble in years past. But if you’ve purchased anything at all online since mid-March, you know that shipping delays are already “a thing” due to COVID issues in the U.S. and abroad. Customs backlog is real, people! Our advice is to look for free shipping promotions whenever possible and plan for even more lead time than you think you’ll need. A gift that doesn’t arrive on time is a bad look for you, not for the company you bought it from.

Consider Alternative “Gifts”

Sometimes a less tangible present is actually more meaningful. Both budget-friendly and sincere, giving the gift of your time or your help is just as worthwhile as a physical item. A few ideas to mull over like spiced apple cider: cleaning or organizing the house, looking after children or pets, and repairing things that are broken or in need of refurbishment are all lovely ways to “gift” your time. These options give a real holiday break to the people on your list, particularly if they are new parents or elderly relatives.

Homemade gifts make good options to keep you on budget, and they’re often the most cherished. No one will remember the snowman-shaped soap dispenser they received under the tree last year, but they’ll definitely treasure the painting, poem, or scrapbook that was made for them in the years to come. Videos (or compiling a bunch of videos from family and friends living in different places into one reel; services like this one can help with that) are another way to create a present that’s personal and deeply felt if you aren’t blessed with tons of creativity or endless cash.

Pick Up Something for You, Too

Don’t leave yourself out when it comes to holiday shopping––but be strategic about it. Treat yourself to a new dress, which is something you can pick up without spending wildly. Dresses aren’t really giftable and with fewer events on the holiday horizon, the selection of marked-down frocks to choose from will be wider than in years prior.

Consider looking beyond the cold weather and the festive season, too. Another spring and summer are really just around the corner. You’ll want to consider what needs refreshing in your vacation and beachwear wardrobe (bikinis, one-piece swimsuits, cover ups). Plus, these so-called “off-season” items are always less expensive right now anyway. Check out our array of new arrivals and customer favorites to get inspired!

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