Watching Your Wallet: Don’t break your gift budget this holiday season

Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 11:03 AM EST
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This holiday season, deals and steals are everywhere online and in stores, but how do you stick to your budget?

NerdWallet's annual survey of American shoppers reveals predictions for spending this holiday season. According to the survey, while some plan to spend less for fear of a recession, overall, the average spending prediction is up from 2018.

The average amount people spent on holiday gifts last year was $776, according to research by InvestigateTV partners at the financial website NerdWallet. This year, Americans plan to spend even more - with a plan to spend an average of $825 on gifts.

“People typically spend a lot on the people closest to them,” said Kim Palmer, a personal finance expert with NerdWallet.

So, just like Santa, you need to make a realistic list of every person you buy for and put a dollar amount next to the name.

Don’t forget to include the small things like gifts for office parties, white elephant gifts or even gifts for neighbors.

“It’s useful because it’s really easy to forget what you’ve already purchased, and that’s where people get into trouble,” Palmer said.

She said staying organized is really the best way to stick to your budget.

For example, many people stock up on toys for kids from sales throughout the year and stuff it in a closet for the holidays. But experts suggest you get those items out now so you can see what you bought.

“Parents make this mistake all the time because they get so excited for the holidays, they buy things early. They put them away, out of sight because they don’t want their kids to find them and then they forget that they bought it. So, you really want to make sure you’re tracking what you’re purchasing,” Palmer said.

According to NerdWallet’s most recent research, nearly one in five shoppers completed most of their shopping during midsummer sales.

If you put everything on a credit card this time of year, be extra careful. You don’t want those purchases sitting on a card accruing interest. The last thing you want is for that $50 toy to end up costing you $100 or $150 because you took so long to pay it off.

“We actually found that one in four people who shop with credit cards end up taking a year or longer to pay off that debt. You don’t want to let that happen to you because credit card debt is so expensive," Palmer said.

There are tools to help you price track special items you really want to buy online.

One to try is the Camelizer browser extension. You download it to your computer’s browser, and it tracks the price history of an item letting you know when it’s at its lowest price.

The Honey browser extension is also a computer add-on, but it will automatically alert you as you’re shopping online if there’s a lower price for an item at a different store.

If you’re shopping in a store, you can download the app Shop Savvy to your phone. You scan the barcode, and the app tells you if another store has a lower price.

Finally, Palmer said it’s a good idea to keep your shopping records handy.

“A lot of big stores will say, ‘If you see the item lower elsewhere, we’ll match that price.’ So save your receipt,” Palmer said.

Copyright 2019 Gray Media Group, Inc. and InvestigateTV. All rights reserved.

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