Don’t let last minute shopping blow the budget

The National Retail Federation expects holiday retail sales for 2018 to increase 4.3 to 4.8 percent from 2017.

“You may be thinking that this doesn’t matter because you have most of your gifts purchased,” says Carrie Johnson, North Dakota State University Extension personal and family finance specialist.

NDSU Extension

“But last-minute purchases, such as gifts for those you forgot to add to your shopping list or stocking stuffers, can bust any carefully constructed budget.

“Or maybe you forget to add gift wrap, holiday cards and other supplies to your budget this year.”

Here are some tips to help you stay within your holiday budget:

    Make sure you don’t get carried away. Sometimes you think you need just one more gift for someone, and then you realize you forgot someone else, or maybe more than one other person.

Or maybe you have multiple children and decide to buy something inexpensive for one of them. So then you need to purchase a gift for the rest of the children, and pretty soon you have spent way more than you planned.

Make sure you are buying gifts only for those who were on your original holiday list and you stick to the budget you set.

    Stay on top of your spending. Keep track of everything. You may feel like you have gotten such great deals that your purchases don’t matter. You may have chosen to charge your gifts on a credit card. Remember, if you end up paying interest on the item, you are spending more than just the sale price.

    Even if you are buying last-minute gifts, you can get the best price by comparison shopping.

Some stores will price match, even online prices. If not, you may be able to order the item online and still get it time for the big day. If it won’t arrive in time, avoid paying for expedited shipping.

    Make homemade gifts.

If you are artistic, crafts may be the best gift.

Or if someone on your gift list likes baking, give the person a gift mix in a jar. Need a recipe? Check out the NDSU Extension Nutrition and Food Safety webpage (www.ndsu.ag/food) for recipes. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. You don’t have to spend a lot for a gift to be meaningful.

    Hold a gift exchange instead of buying for every person in the family.

This works best if you have adult children. Make sure to set a spending limit.

A white elephant gift exchange, which involves gifting an item you already have, also can be a lot of fun without anyone having to spend a lot of money.

    Exchange your services as a gift. Do you love to baby-sit?

Offer to watch your friends’ kids for the night so your friends can have a date night.

Are neighbors remodeling? Pitch in with the painting.

“It is so tempting to be extra generous this time of year, which can really hurt your wallet,” Johnson says.

“But with a little extra planning and thoughtful consideration, you don’t have to regret your purchase decisions this year.”

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