This is a very busy season for a lot of folks; holiday travel, end of year activities and purchases, gift buying, there is just so much to keep track of! Here is a helpful checklist for you to use when scheduling holiday travel, vacation activities, and gift shopping. We hope it will help you stay organized, and give you a sense of accomplishment as you check off each item as “done!”.
- Travel. If you plan to travel during the holiday season, you have no doubt already booked flights, train or bus rides, hotels, tours, and vacation time. You may have already set aside funds to cover all your expenses, also. Here are some thoughts on how to save on those expenses.
- Coupons/discounts. If you are staying in a hotel, ask about “manager’s specials” when you check in. Unbeknownst to many consumers, this is an insider trick to getting a discount on your room rate. If you don’t ask, you may be passing up a significant savings.
- Rewards programs. Check out the airline you have booked flights with to see if they have a rewards program that can save you money on your hotel and/or a rental car, if you are planning to drive a rental while on vacation. You can often save money by booking these items together.
- Credit card rewards. Many credit cards offer your choice of rewards in the form of either merchandise, points for items purchased that can reduce your card balance, or airline miles that can be used for travel.
- Changing your travel date. Although everyone wants to get to their destination before the holiday, consider traveling on Thanksgiving or Christmas day to receive a discount. Some airlines offer special in-flight perks for traveling on the day of a holiday, such as free drinks, upgrades, or special snacks.
- Consider shipping gifts ahead. This one trick can save you a lot of hassle, and cut down on the luggage you need to check when you fly, saving you luggage fees. Shipping your gifts to their destination before you travel assures they won’t get lost between flights or mishandled. Who wants to stand in the lost luggage line at the airport because the suitcase with the gifts in it has disappeared?
- Gift buying. This is an area of great concern for many people, as they question who they should buy for, how much they should spend, and what is appropriate. Many of us feel pressured to spend more than we can afford during the holiday season. Here are some helpful tips from the good people at time.com to help you make the most of your holiday gift budget:
- Gift cards are a great way to go when you’re not sure what someone really needs or wants for Christmas, but you don’t have to pay full price for them. Check out Giftcardgranny.com for a variety of cards that can be purchased for as much as 25% off the face value. This can really add up when you purchase multiple gift cards. You don’t have to give these as gifts, either; you can use the savings to help with your own holiday purchases.
- Focus! A study by the Marketing Science Institute on unplanned buying during shopping trips discovered that shoppers purchase more when they have not set specific purchasing goals. The study showed that ‘ad campaigns such as Wal-Mart’s “Save Money. Live Better,” which focus on abstract shopping benefits, are likely to generate increased unplanned spending. In the current study, when shoppers’ goals were at their most abstract, their unplanned purchases went up 60%.’
- Just say no to that free treat. Another study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, showed that simply indulging in one free chocolate increased the desire for luxury goods such as expensive watches, designer shirts, and Mac laptops immediately after eating. If you want to control your impulse buys, just say no to the free chocolate!
- When shopping at an online retailer, leave your shopping cart unattended after entering your billing and shipping information. Since 68% of online shopping carts are abandoned, according to web research firm Baymard Institute, stores will often send you an email within a few days offering additional discounts to encourage you to complete the purchase, says Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com, who found 17 well known retailers, including Bed, Bath & Beyond, Macy’s, JCPenney, and Toys R Us, that offered coupons ranging from 20% off to free shipping to customers who left their carts.
- Use cash back shopping sites. If you take advantage of accessing online retail sites through websites like Ebates.com and TopCashback.com, you can get cash back for shopping at certain retailers. A typical cash back amount ranges between 1% and 5% of the purchase, though sometimes retailers will run specials that increase that figure up to 20%.
We hope these tips will help you stay organized, save money, and take a little bit of the stress away from your holiday shopping and travel this year. Happy holidays!