The mall is busy, decorated with sparkly things to put everyone in the mood to spend, spend, spend.
And everyone does. Millions of dollars worth of ‘stuff’ has suddenly become special – the perfect gift for the perfect someone. Only the best will do, especially if it’s a bargain!
Bargain hunting at Christmas may seem like a Grinchy thing to do, but there are limits to our money, patience, and time, and to the amount we can afford to spend on credit. (More on credit, later). The importance of thinking before opening the wallet can save money by stopping a purchase immediately.
Is It a Bargain?
Unlike our usual weekly shopping, it’s not possible to know the regular prices of all the things that suddenly appear at Christmas. It’s easy to get cheated. Even reputable stores will mark something with a “sale price” that’s actually the manufacturer’s regular suggested price.
Some people diligently research every gift idea, hoping to find the best product at the lowest price. Product reviews are easy to find online; Amazon has great book reviews, and a Google search leads to numerous review sites such as this where the reviewers are passionate about what they love and hate. The WNetwork has reviews of everything from hand cream to appliances, all expertly tested.
Research can save money for those who have the time and energy, but many people simply give up in the face of multiple product descriptions and prices. Their feet ache, they’re tired, it’s too hot in the store, let’s just buy something and get out!
Hot, tired and desperate: a perfect recipe for an impulse buy that will wreck the budget. Knowing what to guard against can help not only keep us on track at Christmas, but save money the rest of the year, too.
Challenge the pseudo-frugal thoughts that flit through a tired brain:
- “That’s a really low price, I’d better grab one now before they’re gone.” If you weren’t looking for it, it is not in your budget and most likely you can’t afford it even if it is a bargain.
- “So-and-so will love this, even if it’s not their regular style.” So, they’ll love it for Christmas but not at any other time of the year?
- “This is a neat gadget, I bet so-and-so hasn’t got one of these.” Is so-and-so on the list? Is it something they are likely to use more than half-a-dozen times? Or is it that you really want it for yourself?
- “This would be handy for an extra gift, just in case.” Would it really suit all ages, male and female, or will it end up in a drawer, lost and forgotten?
Buying On Credit
It’s so easy at Christmas to become convinced that everything is gorgeous and necessary, and must be bought even if it means using credit. Credit is a sure-fire way to spending more than you can afford, especially on bargains.
Credit costs money. Credit cards are mini-lending / borrowing agreements. We don’t sign a bank loan without serious thought, but it’s easy to forget that using a credit card amounts to the same thing.
A company allows the cardholder to purchase items using the company’s money. If it’s not repaid within a specific period, the cardholder pays anywhere from 8% to 20% or more on every dollar. That $130 crystal vase now on sale for 100 bucks, will actually cost 120 bucks. And if that bill isn’t paid, next month it’s another 20%, this time on 120 bucks, so that lovely 100 dollar bargain now costs $144, more than the original price of the vase.