Renee Butler
November 30, 2013 7:00 am

Holiday shopping is a temptation around every corner. There are specials that scream 70% off and door buster sales that promise the lowest prices of the year if you can get there before noon. The truth is that a bargain is only a bargain if you were going to get it anyway – and if you don’t use your savings to get a bunch of things you don’t need!

Practical advice aside, there are others ways for a girl on a budget to outsmart holiday sales, especially Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all their seemingly one-off sale day kin.

1. GO ONLINE

As much as retailers would try to get you into their stores, the reality is that most of those hot door busters and limited time pricing are available online. Not only will you save yourself the time of going to the store, the cost of parking, and the stress of dealing with holiday shoppers but you will forestall the possibility of an impulse buy.

2. DON’T SHOP ON AN EMPTY STOMACH

You are probably wondering what an empty stomach has to do with shopping. The answer is absolutely nothing, unless you are grocery shopping. But, the principle is the same. When you go out holiday shopping everything is on display in the best possible way (or so the merchandisers hope). The layout of the store and the presentation of the goods themselves are geared to make you want more stuff. If you go out in your sweats, that $70 dress is going to look much nicer than if you spend some time to dress yourself up before you head out shopping. Do your hair, wear your favorite dress, plan on treating yourself afterwards to coffee or lunch with a friend. All of a sudden, dropping $100 on stuff you don’t need will seem much less appealing. (YES, EVEN IF SHOPPING FROM HOME)

3. PAY CASH

If you really want to limit your spending, take out how much you are willing to spend on presents in cash and leave your cards at home. Having to part with hard-earned green is way harder than swiping a price of plastic. You can physically feel the dollars slipping from your hands as you count them to the cashier. When you only have $1,000 in the bank, spending $100 starts to feel very real.

4. DO IT ALL AT ONCE

If you really want to give yourself pause while holiday shopping this year, do it all at once (in cash, see above). Seeing the amount you spent for the day keep climbing is a great way to force yourself to conceptualize how much you are spending on gifts this holiday season.

5. LEAVE THE CAR AT HOME

Likewise, try leaving your car at home and taking public transportation or walking to your shopping. You are much less likely to buy stuff in volume if you have to carry it everywhere for the rest of the day.

6. CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY

In an effort to save money, you may habitually head straight to clearance racks or the items advertised as being on sale. Don’t do it this time of year. That strategy will save you some money most of the time but holiday shopping is different. This time of year, you will find lower priced basics, usually in the middle of the store (aka just after the big sale items and the higher priced items but before the casual goods and clearance racks). Most of the time, these items aren’t on sale but during the holidays that all changes.

7. GO WITH A FRIEND (ON A BUDGET)

Going with a friend who is also on a budget helps too. No one wants to overspend when her best pal couldn’t afford even half the bill.

8. CONSIDER THE SOURCE

The best time to shop depends on the store’s location and its target customers. For instance, a Zara located in a downtown area is going to have a different clientele and possibly even a different selection than a location in a mall somewhere. Likewise, expect a store located in a mall to have more sales on cheaper items (e.g. camisoles, stock up and save) or the downtown area location to have more small impulse buys. Use this to your advantage. If you want to find some lovely little luxury type gifts for your bests, head downtown; most stores will have a range of small items priced under $30 or so. Save the malls for buying in bulk.

Image via ShutterStock

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