Dear Dave: I woke up this morning and realized I haven’t started Christmas shopping yet. I’ve been listening to you for a long time, and I don’t want to fall in the trap this year of paying outrageous prices for things just because I have waited until the last minute. Can you give me some tips on how to save on Christmas gifts and not overspend?
Dear Ali: My first piece of advice is for next year. Decide now how much you want to spend on Christmas gifts and then divide that number by 12. Set aside that amount each month starting in January, and then you won’t be in a panic when Christmas rolls around next year. Planning ahead always reduces stress when it comes to financial matters.
As for this year, my advice is to be aware of last-minute shopping traps. Many stores understand that people start getting desperate as Christmas draws nearer, and their prices reflect that. Also, stay away from the malls. Some folks may think I’m un-American for saying that, but I don’t care. Our culture has become one of shoppers who run to the mall, pay 120 percent of retail for something, and think they got a bargain because there was a sign that said SALE hanging over the table.
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Also, don’t be afraid to negotiate. It may not be comfortable at first, but you can find some great deals if you’re willing to do two things: pay cash and walk away. Once you get in the habit of approaching purchases this way it will become second nature — and fun!
Finally, there are great websites out there like eBay and coolsavings.com. Thinking differently and changing your gift-buying behaviors may be a little tough at first, but trust me, it’s worth the effort. Merry Christmas, Ali!
Dave’s latest project, EveryDollar, provides a free online budget tool. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.