Everything is merry and bright except your pocketbook this holiday season, so we're pulling surefire tips out of the big red shopping bag to ensure that we don't have a blue Christmas.
First, be an educated consumer. Get the buzz on unadvertised bargains by going to two websites: They are www.fatwallet.com and www.slickdeals.net. If you want to do some price comparisons, go to www.salescircular.com. That site also compares Sunday ad prices.
Number 2: Ship gifts for less. www.shipgooder.com lets you compare the prices of having the Internet seller send the stuff directly to the recipient versus what it would cost you to ship it yourself. It also compares shipping prices between business such as UPS and the US Postal Service.
#3: Get notified when the price drops. Go to www.dealalerter.com. It's one of a number of sites that will send email alerts to shoppers when the items they are following drop down in price.
Here is an extremely important reminder: Make a spending plan. After you make that plane, make sure you track your spending. Every purchase should be recorded.
Next, know your limits. Make a list of all your gift recipients and decide how much you will spend on each.
Also remember to SHOP EARLY!
"Shop before the frenzy happens," says Tim Hagan of Consumer Credit Counseling. "Do it before it gets real crowded, before the selection gets low," he says.
Number 7: It sounds funny, but load up your wallet with cash. People spend up to 1/3 more when paying with credit instead of cash.
"This is a way to guarantee not going into debt with the holidays," Hagan says.
Number 8: Shop with no more than two credit cards, preferably just one. But Haga warns...
"Can you pay that off quickly? How many ghosts of Christmases past are living on credit card balances today."
Credit counselors say you should pay off your holiday bills within three months after the holidays.
Number 9: Beware of sales pitches.
"The feelings that are supposed to drive spending decisions make us spend more than if we looked at what we really want to do in the Holiday season and how much it will cost," says Hagan.
And finally, close your eyes and try to remember gifts you received last year. How about five years ago?
Hagan asks, "What are the strongest memories that you have of your previous Christmas presents? Does it have to do with what you receive or who you were with?"
It seems that people and holiday traditions are the things that create the strongest and longest lasting holiday memories.