Ashley Campos worked for a large electronics and entertainment retailer for nine years and the experience made her loathe the holiday shopping season. “I hate how people act,” the Frederick resident says. Plus, the deals “aren’t always that great during the holidays. You can sometimes find better deals during the regular year.”
As of early October, Campos was done with her holiday shopping for her 10-year-old and almost 2-year-old. (We are totally jealous!) She does her shopping year-round, searching for deals and even scoring winter items when they are drastically reduced during the summer months. She also buys the trend toy of the year before the craze starts.
What’s on her list? Each child receives a big item from Santa, stocking stuffers and something to wear, an item they need, something to read and a present they want.
So what is it like to be done this early? “It feels amazing!” she says. “. I am relaxing at home.”
What steps can others take to achieve that kind of consumer bliss?
“Parents needs to know and understand that they don’t have to go into a big spending frenzy,” says Robin Haynes, who teaches a personal finance course at the Community College of Baltimore County. “So often we think we have to get a gift for everybody, and that is not the case.”
Haynes encourages parents to set up a budget as early as January, so they’re not scrambling for money at the end of the year. Parents also need to have an internal conversation with themselves throughout the year regarding savings: “Do I really need that Starbucks Venti Latte?Do we really need to eat out tonight or can we eat at home?”
“So often we allow our wants to overshadow our needs,” Haynes says. “We know Christmas comes up every year at the same time. Throughout the year, you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I spending a need or a want?’ A need is something required for survival — food, clothing, shelter and transportation. A want is something that is desired, but not required.”
Many of us will put gifts on credit cards, but Haynes cautions against using them. “So often we are so quick (to use them) because we have that availability at hand,” Haynes says. After the holidays, folks can be left with a big bill and interest to pay on the purchases. She believes people need to be honest with themselves. “Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses around the holiday,” she says. “Be honest with yourself. If you can’t afford to go Christmas shopping, don’t go Christmas shopping. … Make sure your bills are paid.”
Karen Frasier of Reisterstown checks the prices of multiple competitors for items. If she’ss in a store and notices something that’s priced higher than in other stores, she’ll talk to customer service. “They will match the price for you, so you are always assured the lowest price,” she says. The mother of two and savvy shopper also encourages parents to keep receipts, so if the price goes down on an item you can go back to get the difference.
Dana Nardone, a mom of two, starts holiday shopping early to spread out spending, including shopping clearance sales as much as a year in advance — “athough that gets harder to do as the kids get older and their tastes and interests change so quickly,” the Walkersville resident says. “For things like clothes and pajamas, I’ll buy them just after winter or Christmas when they’re deeply discounted.”