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Holiday Shopping: A Bargain is Not Always a Bargain

Living a Better Life® (from the editor's desk)
by Michelle Jones

TV commercials are making their annual attempt to convince our children that they need the newest and most expensive toys this Christmas. The Sunday newspaper is so heavy with shopping 'bargains' we can’t even find the time to read through them all. And department store mailers are being delivered to our homes like there’s no tomorrow.

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And that’s just what they want you to believe; there will be no shopping tomorrow, you must run to the store and buy all of your holiday gifts from them today for a great BARGAIN, of course!

As a busy working mom of 4 it’s not very often that I get a chance to actually sit down and read through all of my mail (the old fashioned kind of mail that comes in the little black box at the end of our driveway), but last weekend I had a few moments to spare and something caught my attention.

It was a special mailer from one of our local department stores (which I believe I've only shopped at once) in a plastic bag with three beautiful advertisements regarding an upcoming 3-week special sale, a 2 1/2-week special sale, and a 1-DAY ONLY special sale. Really?

I have to admit, the cover designs were truly beautiful and their marketing team did just what they set out to do; they pulled me in and got me to take time out of my very busy schedule to think about the beautiful and expensive gifts they were going to have on sale. Even though purchasing them might far exceed our Christmas shopping budget.

Thankfully, this bargain shopper will survive the holiday bargain shopping season since I start my Christmas gift shopping in January (not November).

I hope you will make it through with money leftover in your pocket too!

After browsing through the advertisements for about 10-15 minutes and thinking of several people still remaining on our gift list that would probably love to have some of those expensive items, it soon became clear to me how easily consumers could get caught up in a pre-holiday bargain shopping frenzy.

I can just hear it now.

"I know it's too expensive."


These special holiday sales could really be a problem for those who love a sale, and who doesn't? Compound that by families running short on time and still having a large list of unfinished shopping to do, and Christmas drawing nearer every day. I imagine those 3 department store sales are going to be quite successful; whether they are true bargains or not.

Many shoppers will fall victim to a holiday shopping frenzy, far exceeding their gift budget. And if they aren't paying with cash, it could take several months or even years to pay off what they're about to do.

Don't be one of them!

One way to avoid getting caught up in the holiday shopping frenzy (besides not turning on the TV, or apparently even opening your mail!) is to have a gift budget in place. This way you can shop more wisely and truly find the best gifts for everyone on your list, at great savings.

To help you with creating a simple budget for your Christmas gifts, I'll include our Holiday Gift List Budget Worksheet that you can print out at the end of this column. You can also print out extra copies and share them with your friends and family. Just taking a few moments to think about your gift list and how much money you can really afford to spend will prevent the post-holiday nightmare of waking up in January with a pile of unwanted bills.

You might also want to print out one gift budget sheet to use for this holiday shopping season, and a second one to get started for next year. We will also keep this holiday budget worksheet archived on the website so you can print it again and again, year after year.

One more note about these great sales that are being held in practically every department store across the land. Many 'holiday bargain' prices are the same sale prices they offer all throughout the year, and the 'regular retail price' can be highly inflated to make you think you're getting a good bargain.

Although it's true that some of the very best gift bargains can be found in the weeks right before and after each holiday such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc., be prepared (with your printed gift budget) and always be on the lookout for a true bargain so you don't get trapped in a holiday shopping frenzy!

Print Holiday Gift List Worksheet

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Return to Bargain Shopping or Christmas on a Budget

Copyright © 2004 by Michelle Jones. All rights reserved.

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