4 ways to shop smart and stay on a budget this holiday season

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend $680 billion during the holidays, and the average family will be shelling out $660 on gifts, toys and other holiday merchandise.

If you’ve already done a ton of shopping during Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it’s important to make sure you don’t go overboard. After all Christmas is still 27 days away, and you don’t want to wind up in debt.

So here are 4 ways to shop smart the rest of the holiday season, and stay on a budget.

Tip No. 1: Avoid the “One for Me” Syndrome

Often, when we’re out shopping, we find nice gifts for others. But then we wind up thinking: “Oooh! That’s so nice; I’ll actually get one for me too.”Or we rationalize and justify our spending and tell ourselves “I deserve it.”Yes, you’ve probably worked hard and deserve something nice – but you also deserve to live a life without debt or financial stress, which is what will happen if you overspend. So resist the urge to engage in "one for me" spending.

Tip No. 2: Use the Single-Item Gift Strategy

If you’re going to buy gifts – and really, you don’t have to buy for everybody – you should ask select family members and loved ones to make a brief holiday wish list that includes inexpensive and moderately priced items. Then explain that you will be getting each person one – yes, I said one! – single gift off that list. Remember, making merry during the holidays doesn’t have to mean a living-room full of presents. Quality, including practicality and thoughtfulness of a gift, trumps quantity during the holidays – despite all the holiday commercials to the contrary.

Tip No. 3: Practice the ‘Sell One, Then Buy One’ Method

Before buying expensive technology and gadgets – like Apple’s new iPhone X, Microsoft’s Xbox One S or the Sony PS4 – first sell the old tech you have that you no longer want, use or need. The average household has 7 old devices just lying around the house and those items could be sold for cash, helping you to save money on any new items you buy during the holidays. Go to the website Decluttr.com or get their free app in order to sell your old tech -- like cell phones, tablets and video game consoles -- for top prices. Right now, Decluttr is paying more than $100 for the X-Box 1, about $150 for the Play Station 4 (PS4) and around $350 to $400 for iPhone 7 and 8 models. Just ship them your items free and Decluttr pays you the day after they receive your tech.

Tip No. 4: Try the Family Gift Technique

If you can swing it in your family, see if your relatives are willing to sort of “pool” a gift list. By this, I mean: can you identify gifts that the whole family can benefit from? If so, you may be able to make one meaningful purchase as opposed to many, more expensive gifts. Example: a family pack of movie theater tickets would let everyone go see the latest Blockbuster movie during the holiday season.

By following these four tips, you’ll be a much smarter holiday shopper – and you won’t let out-of-control spending get you into debt.

Advice by:

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach

Twitter: @TheMoneyCoach
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Blog: AskTheMoneyCoach.com