Thursday, November 17, 2011

Optimize Your Seasonal Spending

All it takes is a look at the news to know this holiday season will be a struggle for many.  If you’re budget is feeling the pinch, save yourself time, money, and (possible) disappointment, with focused preparation before heading out to shop. 

First, establish your spending limit and then break that total down, budgeting for each purchase.  Next, prepare lists:  a list of those for whom you are shopping; a list of stores you plan to visit; and a list of items needed for home decoration and entertainment.  On your gift-recipient list allow room to record pertinent sizes, preferred colours, favourite games, authors, past-times, or other personal details you’ll need while shopping.  On the list of stores, leave room to record any items of interest you find, noting prices, warranties and special offers.  Then shop around.  Details you record will aide comparison before making the actual purchases, ensuring you get the best deals.

Also before buying, ask each merchant about their policies on returns, refunds and exchanges.  Quite often, sale items cannot be refunded or returned.  Exchanges are generally allowed but, when it’s a popular sale item, odds of the preferred colour or size being available diminishes quickly with each passing day.  Another option to consider, particularly when shipping packages, is a gift receipt.  These generally exclude price but contain all other the pertinent  information for the recipient to affect an exchange or return in their own hometown, saving both of you time and more shipping charges if amendments are required.

Pay attention to packaging, too.  Some retailers will only make refunds, returns, or exchanges on items in their original package.  Occasionally, merchandise is so securely enclosed they don’t allow for in-store inspection. Even if the merchant provides a display model, you can’t be certain of the sealed-product’s functioning and wholeness.  To avoid holiday let-down, it’s best to open and fully inspect the item when you get home and prior to repackaging, wrapping and/or shipping.

In this tough economy, it pays to make the most of your time and money.  By preparing, you’ll save both and keep frustration to a minimum, and that’s a good start to imbuing any holiday season with peace and joy.