As much as we love online shopping (and yes, we loooove it), shopping in person is satisfying in its own way. It can even save you money this time of year. In fact, I know first-hand (ahem) how tempting it can be to click and click on all the pretty things and suddenly you’ve spent way more than you ever intended.
That’s why we’re happy to be working with our newest sponsor Flipp, a completely free app which is one great way to save money shopping in stores–and save time, too. In fact, it was a Cool Mom Tech pick when we discovered it earlier this year, and our associate editor Jeana raved that you don’t have to do anything to get the deals. Just…shop.
Hey, we’re busy moms. We’re all for doing nothing whenever possible.
So, in the spirit of saving money this holiday season, we’ve put together some of our favorite, helpful ways for saving yourself some money, time, and sanity. Keep these 7 tips in mind before you head out to your favorite shops or (gulp) the mall.
1. Set a holiday shopping budget that includes more than just gifts for the family.
Take time to decide how much money you want to spend on your holiday shopping–and be specific. Write the number down and stick with it. The tough part is making sure to include gifts for those people we tend to forget like the hair cutter or mail carrier; along with gifts for your babysitter, party hosts, teachers, work colleagues, kids’ coaches–even holiday outfits for your kids and yourself. Those are the little purchases that can add up to big spending beyond your budget if you’re not careful.
A simple budgeting app like GoodBudget, which we’ve been using ourselves, is like a digital envelope system. It lets you allot specific dollar amounts towards specific categories, then subtracts what you spend so you can easily track all your purchases and see what you have left and where you might be going overboard.
2. Make a list, and do the Santa thing. A.K.A., check it twice.
The biggest shopping mistake that so many people make (raising our hands here, too) is heading out without a really specific list of both people and items. You’ll find no shortage of very simple to-do list apps that you can easily use to make your holiday shopping list, allowing you to simply tap or swipe when you’ve purchased an item.
Knowing exactly what you are looking for keeps you from grabbing a bunch of random items on sale that you are sure someone on your list might like–but you don’t quite know whom yet. And better, it keeps you from the temptation of buying things on sale that you would not buy in any other circumstance. Like, yes, that faux fur coffee cup holder is so cute and so cheap, but. Yeah.
3. Research deals from the stores you plan to shop.
Because of the stiff competition from online competitors, many stores are offering in-store only incentives, like discounts and deals if you shop on a specific day of the week, or deals in-store if you use the retailer’s own app. If you have a store credit card, you can often earn double points (like when you shop Tuesdays at The Gap, for example) or get cash back (Target’s Red card offers 5% automatically). Plenty of shops offer military or student discounts. And sometimes it’s just a matter of calling the store and asking if they offer any special deals since many aren’t readily advertised.
4. Choose your coupons wisely.
As much as we love coupons because they really can save you a lot of money, they are designed to get you to purchase things you would never have bought in the first place. We’re the first to admit that we have a coupon burning a hole in our pockets and suddenly we’ve got a six-gallon container of kettle corn in our shopping carts that we totally don’t need. (Mmmm…kettle corn.)
If you are going to use coupons, the best trick is to only clip or print out the ones for items you really truly need or planned to buy anyway. The old, “Hm…maybe I might use it if…” is a slippery slope.
5. Don’t overlook the basics, like checking store circulars
You might be amazed at how many hidden deals you will find just by checking good old-fashioned store circulars. But whoa, we know it can be so time-consuming to dig through your whole Sunday paper. That’s why an app like Flipp can really help because it delivers all of the circulars for your favorite retailers right to your smartphone. What’s especially cool is that you can set certain retailers as favorites, then easily sift through them for deals based on a particular item or brand, and even by the amount you want to save. (Only 35% off or more, please.) How handy is that?
Then be sure to “clip” the deal right into Flipp’s shopping list, so when you’re in the store, you can easily access it right within the app.
6. If it looks like a discount, it’s not always a discount
Be wary of in-store displays that seem to be promoting discounts but actually aren’t. Just because that shelf at the end of the aisle is packed with perfumes underneath a sign that says ONLY $19.99 doesn’t mean that that’s any less than the normal price. They could even cost more. Retailers often have deals with the manufacturers to promote their items in special displays. That doesn’t always translate to savings for you, though it’s meant to feel that way.
7. Saving time is saving money too.
Your time is a precious commodity, especially during the busy holiday season. Find ways to save time, like shopping first thing in the morning or in some cases, late in the evening. You can also use in-store pick-up options to help you avoid crowds and lines. Not to mention the disappointment of getting to the store only to find that tablet sold out an hour earlier.
And hey, saving time can actually save you real money too, if it means getting another project done at work or paying for less babysitter time. Any tip that gets us home to our kids faster is great by us.