Holiday Deals and How to Make the Most of Your Money – NBC Boston

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Thanksgiving gatherings next week mark the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season, and with money stretched and prices rising, you’re probably worried about how you’re going to pay for it all this year. 

The holidays are going to be expensive, but here are some ways to keep costs in check.

Plan ahead this holiday season

Decorations and donations, presents and parties, and all that celebrating comes at a price. Chances are,  you likely have financial concerns this year.

 “Honestly, I think that the first person to bring this up in the family will probably be doing a lot of people a favor,” said Certified Financial Planner Misty Lynch.

Now is the time to speak up and scale back.

 “When the price of eggs has gone up 40%, like everybody’s feeling this, it’s not unique to one person,” said Lynch, owner of Sound View Financial Advisors LLC.   “ I think now is a really good opportunity to start that conversation and maybe ask, you know, how are you managing things mom and dad, you know, things have gotten more expensive.”

Set realistic holiday expectations with your family and then create a budget, assign a gift amount to each person you’re buying for and stick to it.

“Maybe you have to be more creative with gifts,” Lynch said.    “Maybe it’s not the most expensive thing, but maybe you buy a bottle of wine and you find the best one you could find under $15.  And it ends up being great, but you might have to do a little more homework, that’s fine.”

If you’re hosting a holiday gathering, go potluck and if you’re attending one, but money is tight,  offer up your time.

“You want to maybe contribute in a way, but you can’t buy anything or bring anything, maybe you can offer to, you know, come early and watch the kids or bring a game or do something else to kind of contribute,” suggested Lynch.

What host wouldn’t love help with the dishes?

Getting a head start on your shopping will help you spread out your cash flow.

You can also try to boost your holiday budget, by cutting back on discretionary spending.  Skip the take-out dinners or daily coffee shop stops. 

Cash in on credit card rewards and dig out those gift cards that have been collecting dust.

“We found that about half of us are sitting on unused gift cards,” said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.com.  “The average per person is $175.  And across the economy, this adds up to about $21 billion.  The point is, this is real money. I actually think this is a really good inflation-busting tactic. Use these unused gift cards… I would build this strategy into your holiday shopping.”

And Massachusetts has a 90% redemption rule when it comes to gift cards.

“In Massachusetts, you can actually cash out unused amounts under $5 or if you’ve used at least 90% of the initial value,” said Rossman.  “ So if you had $100 gift card and you spent, let’s say, $91, you can actually get that $9 left cashed out at the register.”

And, don’t be afraid to do things differently this year.

“I talked to somebody who said that they… had this like epic snowball fight where snowballs were piled in different places and the kids had to go find them,” said Lynch.  “That costs nothing…it’s creative, and I think that that’s how memories kind of get made.”

There are many ways to track deals to get the best possible price this holiday season.

How to get the best holiday deals

Your inbox is probably getting slammed with holiday offers.  Black Friday Deals, Limited Time Offers, Early Access Sales and Last Chance Deals – 20% off, 50% off, it can all make your head spin!

But the truth is, you have the technology to make sure you’re not paying too much for an item. 

Be prepared, devote some time and you’ve got good deals in the bag.

“You should be shopping around.  It is one of the easiest ways to make sure that you’re getting the best deal,” said Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.com.

Using apps like ShopSaavy, you can scan barcodes and compare prices across thousands of retailers and you can even set an alert to get a notification when an item drops in price.  At the very least, do a quick Google search to see what the item is selling for at other retailers.

And sign up for preferred customer or rewards programs at your favorite stores.  

“Generally, with these loyalty programs, you earn points or some other type of reward for every purchase that you make,” said Ramhold.  “So it’s worth joining them and definitely making sure you’re logged in or using whatever member ID number you may need for these programs when you’re checking out just because those benefits definitely add up.”

When shopping online, don’t ever check out without trying some coupon or promo codes to see if you can get a discount.   Google the retailer and “promo codes” or visit sites like RetailMeNot.com, which list codes for you.  Try every code that you find, it is definitely worth the effort!

You can also install a free shopping browser extension like DealFinder or Honey, which automatically apply promo codes when you check out online, and most retailers give you a discount code if you sign up for emails or texts.

“They’ll offer, you know, 10 to 20% off your first purchase, so it can definitely pay off,” said Ramhold.   “And follow your favorite retailers on social media just because that’s a good way to find out about potentially new offers that you might not know about.”

Prices fluctuate, sometimes daily, so try filling your cart and tracking it for a while.

We tracked a coat for a week, plugging in any promo codes that popped up.  The sale price varied from $118 to $71, back up to $88 and then down to $67. 

Too much effort?  Sites like DealNews.com do the work for you.

“Essentially, we just have a team of people that literally scour the internet every day to find these best deals,” said Ramhold.  “You can set up deal alerts both in our app and on the site…you can set your parameters to be as broad or as specific as you want… when we list a deal that meets those parameters, you’ll receive a notification and you can jump on it before it sells out.”

And super savvy shoppers stack their savings by using cashback websites like Rakuten, Ibotta or BeFrugal.  You get money back when you make a qualifying purchase.

And if you’ve earned store reward dollars for a future purchase, use them!

“Those extra store bucks are part of what makes some of these deals so enticing,” said Ramhold.   “If you don’t use them …you’re kind of leaving money on the table.”

And if you’re interested in supporting small businesses this holiday season,  follow them on social media.  That’s where you’re likely to hear about deals or sales.



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