Among my friends, I’m notorious for finishing all my Christmas shopping before December. As a matter of fact, I’m proud to say that I’m actually done all of my gift shopping except for one particularly difficult person. I’m always asked how I do it, and I think the answer to that is more like why I do it.
I’m no longer a full time student, however I’m not working, so Christmas shopping can feel daunting. I’ve never been fantastic with money or budgets and quite frankly, if I like you enough, I’ll want and will spend a decent amount of money on you. Especially in the past few months, I’ve gained a lot of new friends, since I moved back home from University and had to make new friends in my hometown. These people may be newer to my life, but they still mean as much to me as an older friend.
Because I have limited income at best, shopping early for Christmas is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. As ridiculous as it seems to start shopping in September, it’s actually the best way to save a little bit of money and really find meaningful gifts that you can afford, leading to my first tip:
1) Shop Early.
If you see something that you think you’d like to gift someone, either buy it or check back every week or so to see if the item goes on sale. One of the best things about starting shopping early is that you can afford to wait for a sale. When you start early, and your local store runs out of the item when it goes on sale, that gives you the opportunity to order online or find another store that has the item. You won’t be pressed for time and buy things on a whim or because you think if you don’t, it’ll be gone. The best things about shopping early is that everyone goes nuts around Christmas and buys whatever they can get their hands on. If you start in September, there will be less people buying and you can wait longer for your item to decrease in price OR for a coupon to come along. Not only that, if you have limited income, like myself, you can space out your gift buying. If you only make, say $100 a week, spending $20 on a gift per week until Christmas give you about $300 to budget, without actually budgeting your money.
2) Ask about coupons and promotions.
If you see something that would be perfect for Christmas, go online and add yourself to their mailing list or ask in store to be mailed coupons and promotions. A lot of stores give you coupons based on how loyal of a customer you are. The earlier you join a list, there is a chance you’ll receive a promotion or a better promotion than the people who added themselves more recently. (Starbucks is an example. The more loyal of a shopper and the longer you’ve been a customer with them, the more promotions you receive.)
3) Pay Attention to Return Policies.
Nowadays, return policies can be indefinite or up to 90 days. If you are shopping in late Sept, early Oct, 90 days from then is Christmas. If you change your mind about a product, you can return it before Christmas. Victoria’s Secret is a great example. Angel’s Day Out occurs in October, but they have a 90 day return policy. Their gift sets are usually available just after Back to School. If you see something you like, you have 90 days to return it and you will probably be able to get a great discount on it. American Eagle and Sephora are examples of stores that have indefinite returns WITH RECEIPT. American Eagle always has some sort of sale on and they offer a price adjustment if the item goes on sale. AND you can return anything as long as you have the receipt and the tags are still on it. Sephora, on the other hand, has their VIB sale in early/mid November. You can buy your Christmas gifts at 20% off in November and keep the receipt and return the item, if you change your mind.
4) If you are cross border shopping, pay attention to the return policy and gift receipts.
I live in Toronto, about an hour and a half away from Buffalo, NY; Going to the States to shop for a day is a feasible thing for me. Sometimes, you are able to find really great deals in the States that you cannot find in Canada. However, be wary of how returns work. Just because cross border shopping is feasible, doesn’t mean cross border returns are as well. Victoria’s Secret is actually a phenomenal example of why you need to be wary of cross border returns and exchanges. In the summer, I bought some underwear from Victoria’s Secret. When I got home, I realized that the colours weren’t my favourite and there was a tear in one of the ones I bought. I went to my local Victoria’s Secret and asked for an exchange. While processing the exchange, the cashier told me that I had to pay the difference in price between Canada and the US. I told her I wasn’t doing that (Assertiveness is also a great way to save money). The cashier offered to refund them (in CAD, when I paid for them in US), which wasn’t what I wanted nor was going to fly with me. It wasn’t until a second manager got into the process, that I was finally able to exchange the items.
5) Also, if you are cross border shopping, don’t forget to pay attention to the sales happening in Canada.
Has anyone else been paying attention to those Hudson Bay Daily Deals like I have? Oh my goodness, they’re absolutely amazing. And there is no way anything cross border could be as much of a deal as some of the stuff they have. Don’t forget that spending Canadian saves you the service charges, exchange rates, the gas to go to the States, your time, effort and dealing with the customs officer. It also helps the Canadian Economy and you are paying tax that you will benefit from (I understand the argument that the Canadian Government has no idea how to spend money, but if you’re paying NY Tax, you’ll never benefit from any of it).
6) DON’T WAIT FOR BLACK FRIDAY.
Stores want your money and do absolutely everything for a money grab. Black Friday very rarely gives you a good enough deal for the stress you face being outdoors on Black Friday. As a matter of fact, Black Friday sales often start 2 or 3 days before Black Friday or continue 2 or 3 days after. Go to the mall, check the stores that are on your list and see what they have going on. Sometimes, it may be just worth it to pay an extra 2 or 3 dollars to not have to fight with everyone else and guarantee that you get your item.
I hope that was helpful! I know this is a little late, however it’s a good lesson for next year. ;)
Until Next Time,