Many savvy shoppers have been busy buying for the holidays, even with Black Friday more than a month away. Experts say they’ve got the right idea. Some of the best deals on gifts, décor, even groceries, can be found well in advance of the holidays.
Kim Hawks of Omaha said she sets a little money aside every month, in anticipation of those year-end expenses. "Oh my Gosh, it's horrible. It's horrible,” she said. “And I just got married, so now my family has doubled in size."
Mary Lynn Reiser, Director of UNO’s Center for Economic Education said her plan is smart. But even for those who haven’t planned that far in advance, it’s not too late to plan. Start, by making a list. “Sit down with that big yellow tablet. Make a list of things that you need to purchase and who you're going to purchase them for, and make a little scratch budget on how much you're going to spend on that person.”
She also suggested writing out potential gifts for each person on the list, for advance price comparisons. "I would spend some time reading ads so that you are familiar with what prices are, what things are really on sale, what things really cost,” she said, “and then when you go to the store, then you know if this is really a good deal or not.”
Put a spending cap on each person on the gift list, like B.J. Stussy of Omaha does with her children. "I use a credit card and that way I can track a lot better,” she said. “If I do cash, at the end of the year, I'd go - how much did I really spend on that.” Her card gives her cash back, so she said it’s beneficial in that way, too.
Reiser said credit cards are okay, as long as consumers are making more than the minimum payment to avoid getting caught in an interest trap. The important thing, she said, is that shoppers really stick to spending limits without getting clouded by emotion.
"What happens oftentimes is we get wrapped up in the spirit,” she said. “We get enthusiastic about what's going on and then we just make a purchase that we end up regretting after the first of the year, when we're trying to pay that bill.”
Beyond the gifts, comes the food. It’s an area that Stussy, admittedly, could improve upon in terms of financing. "I want everybody to feel like they're full and welcome at the table, and if that means I put on a big spread and we spend some money, then that's what I'd rather do.”
The drought is expected to make an impact on this year’s holiday meal budget. So Reiser suggests buying the non-perishable items bit by bit, in advance, as they go on sale.