Are you ready for the holiday shopping season? No? Here are four money management tips to help you budget your money, save more money, and earn easy money. Use these tips to make holiday shopping a breeze.
1. Set Price Limits
Use a gift giving guide and set price limits for each gift you plan to give. Write down each person’s name. Put a dollar amount next to each name. Then track whether you stayed within your limits. Use the Order Your Life gift list to automatically keep track of your spending.
2. Price Match
Before you begin your holiday shopping, find out which retailers offer price matching. Whether you prefer shopping online or in-store, chances are you can find the best deal with price matching.
Online scenario: If you find the perfect gift and it is beyond your price limit, add the gift to your online cart and continue searching online for a better deal. By putting the item in your cart, you are essentially putting that item on hold and temporarily claiming it. Quickly conduct your search for a better deal, as most retailers only hold an item for 10-15 minutes before the hold expires and the item returns to available inventory. After your temporary hold ends, someone else can buy the item. If the item is still available, add it to your cart again to begin another temporary hold.
In-store scenario: If you are in the store when you find the perfect gift, take out your phone, find the best deal, walk up to the counter, and ask if the store will match the price. Some retailers will match the price on the spot. Others may ask you to pay their price, then offer you a refund for the difference. Still others may ask you to fill out a form or speak with someone in customer service.
Most major retailers have price matching policies, and they are willing to match the prices of their major competitors. If the retailer matches the lower price, that’s great. If the retailer does not match the lower price, you still win because you also have the option to get the best deal online. No matter what, remain friendly and treat the store representative with courtesy and kindness. You may learn about another deal or upcoming sale by being your charming self.
I bought the gift then found it for less scenario: If you buy the perfect gift then find it for a lower price, you may be able to get a refund of the price difference. Whether you find the lower price online, in-store, at the retailer where you bought the gift, or at one of the retailer’s competitors, you may still be eligible for a refund.
Technically, when the price of an item drops and the retailer refunds you the difference, it is called a price adjustment. Whether the retailer calls it price matching or price adjustment, the bottom line is that there is a window of opportunity in which you can get a lower price. Your time window can range anywhere from 24 hours to 30 days depending on the retailer. Thus, it is imperative that you make your request for a refund as soon as possible. You can get a price adjustment for an item purchased online or in-store. Contact the retailer’s customer service department for assistance.
As a reminder, be kind to customer service representatives. They may go against policy “this one time” and give you the refund. (I always smile when this happens to me because, according to store policy, they do not have to give me a refund.)
3. Get Cash Back
Be economically savvy and get cash back on the gifts you buy. With apps, coupons, and rewards credit cards, it is easy to earn money on the money you spend. In my Be Economically Savvy series, I discuss ways to save money with some of my favorite apps. Here I will discuss Ibotta, Rakuten, Paribus, and rewards credit cards.
Ibotta offers cash back rebates on groceries, apparel, furniture, restaurants, magazines, travel, and pretty much any item you can name. They have offers from hundreds of stores. With this app, you earn cash back on in-store and online purchases.
Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) is another one of my favorite cash back sites. Like Ibotta, with Rakuten, you earn cash back for in-store and online purchases. Over 2000 retailers offer rebates through Rakuten.
Paribus (by Capital One) is a price tracking app that syncs with your email account, scans for online purchase receipts, and searches for lower prices on the items you have purchased. When a lower price is found, the app alerts you of the price drop and automatically requests a price adjustment on your behalf. The result, you get a refund. (I recently signed up for Paribus. I will give it a trial run during the holiday season.)
If you use a credit card to purchase gifts, make sure you use a rewards credit card. Each purchase should earn you cash back, points, or travel rewards such as miles. Discover is one of my favorite rewards cards because they offer excellent customer service as well as 5% cash back categories. In addition to earning a little extra when you use your card, credit cards offer the added benefits of being able to easily track your spending and dispute purchases. Note of caution – use your credit cards wisely. If you cannot afford a gift, save until you can afford it or buy a gift you can afford. Be mindful of your price limits.
4. Embrace Free Shipping Day
Take advantage of Free Shipping Day. This year, Free Shipping Day is on Saturday, December 14. Free Shipping Day was started in 2008 by Luke and Maisie Knowles and it is a promotional, mid-December holiday in which online retailers offer free shipping with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve. Participating retailers waive minimum purchase amounts, which means you can get free shipping no matter the price of your order.
Read each online retailer’s free shipping details before you shop. For example, the retailer may offer free shipping on all items or only on specific items. Additionally, some retailers require free shipping coupons or promo codes while others automatically apply free shipping at checkout.
Now that you know how to navigate the holiday shopping frenzy, go forth and be economically savvy. Happy Holidays!