With the rising costs of gasoline and heating oil, as well as rising interest rate charges, saving money is at the top of everyone's wish list this holiday season. Here are some tips on getting the most out of your gift shopping dollars this holiday season:
1. Set a budget. This seems like a simple step, but many people fail to do this before starting their holiday shopping. Figure the total amount you can afford to spend on gifts and then divide that number by the total number of people on your list. This gives you the average amount that you should spend on each person. One idea is to spend a little more than the average amount on your immediate family members and a little less than average on more distant friends but, however you do it, try to stay right around the average amount that you calculated.
2. Always Compare Prices. Using the internet, it is easy to compare prices on most products. Some websites even offer consumer comments which can give you valuable information on quality, ease of use, customer service comments, and overall ratings for many products. Some of the best websites for this are nextag.com, epinions.com, pricegrabber.com, and shopping.com.
3. Shop at websites that give major discounts on products. These websites offer products at discounts of 50% or more. Selection and quantity may be limited but, if they have what you are looking for, you can save a lot of money. Some of the best websites for this are www.overstock.com and www.incrediblediscountgifts.com
4. Shop at Thrift Stores or Consignment Shops like the Salvation Army stores. You can find unique items at bargain prices, but be sure to check the quality of all merchandise. Remember, all items are sold "as is" and usually can not be returned.
5. Make your own gifts. Family members and friends will appreciate the time and thought that you put in to the gift, especially if it is personalized just for them. Some ideas are photo collages, scrapbooks, and framed photos or personalized gift baskets filled with the recipients favorite coffees, teas, candies, jams, and baked goods.
6. Watch for Sales, Coupons, and Discounts in your local paper and online. On the internet, just type in "Coupon Code", "Sale", or "Discount" into search engines like Google or Yahoo.
Robert Landis is a freelance writer based in York PA. His writing focuses on personal finance.