It’s only Halloween, but no doubt you’ve already started thinking about your budget for Christmas and holiday shopping. Forecasts for spending are all across the map. Earlier this fall, the National Federation of Retailers estimated that spending would rise 3.7 percent. Not too exciting. This week, Deloitte released its annual survey of consumer trends and found that people expect to spend 12.5 percent more this year. But here’s the twist this year, according to both sources: A large portion of the spending will benefit the buyer, not friends and family. That spending will rise 16 percent, says Deloitte, with half of respondents saying they will purchase gifts for themselves this holiday season.
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In a change that could be as influential as Black Friday or Cyber Monday, more and more people are taking advantage of retailers’ biggest markdowns of the year to benefit themselves.
And, that raises the question, what can you do to drive down your tab for holiday shopping?
Job No. 1 is to set an actual budget. Go back and estimate your spending last year and cut the total. Then, start early. Shopping online can allow you to price items before you go to the store and face the temptation of buying on the spot. Check out www.dealnews.com to find the best prices on specific items and follow stores you know you will buy from on Twitter (TWTR) and Facebook (FB) to find deals.
A California Institute of Technology study shows that consumers will pay 50 percent more for products when they are in a store and can actually touch items. Therefore, one way to keep your spending under control is give gift cards. And just in case you have a drawer full of cards you haven’t used, sites like GiftCardGranny.com and CardCash.com allow you to sell gift cards at discounts to their face value.
Finally, my husband and I have agreed enough of the stuff already. Our gifts this year will be experiences – ski lessons, concert tickets and the like. We’ll celebrate Christmas just not from underneath a pile of wrapping. And, doing things together is always a nice benefit in and of itself.