This time of year, it's all about the shopping.
Shopping for food, for gifts, and for decorations.
However, it's easy to fall into spending traps when you're already predisposed toward spending money.
Before you head out, be aware of the following spending traps, and do your best to avoid them.
1. Buying Something Because It's a “Good Deal”
When you're already on the hunt for bargains, it's easy to add just one more thing to your cart because it's a “good deal.” But do you really need it — or even want it?
If it's not on your list, you are still spending money you haven't planned to spend, no matter how big of a bargain it is. It makes more sense to stop and examine the purchase before adding it to the basket.
Ask yourself why you're getting the item. If your best answer is “It's a good deal!” that's really not good enough.
2. Minimum Spending for Free Shipping
Many retailers offer free shipping if you spend a minimum amount.
The problem with this arrangement is that it can trick you into spending more than you had planned just for the free shipping. This used to happen to me in the past. My husband and I, when shopping online, would hunt for a few more items to reach the minimum required for free shipping. After a while, though, I realized that we were often spending $10 or $15 extra in order to save between $8 and $9 on shipping. All told, we were spending extra, and still coming out behind.
Instead of trying to hit a minimum, look online for shipping promo codes, or look for shops that offer reasonable prices and free shipping. If you shop at Amazon a lot, it can be worth it to pay for Amazon Prime in order to get the two-day shipping. It comes in handy during a pinch when you need to order something quickly for the holidays. If you aren't worried about items arriving within a certain time period, you can save your basket and just keep adding to it with planned purchases over a period of a week or two until you naturally reach the free shipping minimum.
3. Credit Card Rewards
One of the best ways to shop more efficiently is to use credit card rewards to earn cash back. This cash back can offset some of the cost of your holiday spending. The problem comes in when you just pull out your plastic mindlessly for everything without tracking your spending. Even worse is when you make unplanned purchases, and you justify it by saying that you're earning rewards.
Rewards cards work best when you use them in conjunction with a spending plan. Figure out what, exactly, you will spend your money on, and then stick to that list. Make sure that you have enough money to cover your purchases when the bill comes so that you don't end up paying interest on your purchases. That paid interest can make your entire holiday season more expensive.
With a little vigilance, you should have no problem making the most of your money this holiday season, and avoid falling into expensive spending traps.