2018 year is YOUR year to shop smarter. I don’t know about you, but I am determined to get smarter about my money the older I get. This definitely holds true for not just what I spend on, but more importantly, how I spend my money.

A study last year showed that the average Singaporean spends S$388 on holiday shopping every year, with surprisingly enough, men spending almost 20 percent more than women do.

While it’s good to know the national average, every person’s spending capacity is different—some have more, others have less. Knowing the average should not pressure you to spend as much, or perhaps less than what you’ve already set aside for this Christmas. Everyone’s budget is different. You do you!

The New Savvy - Finance - Money Christmas dos and donts 2

Here are some holiday DOs with your money

Having said that, there are still some good tips to follow when it comes to Christmas shopping. Let’s look at some expert advice on the matter.

Make a budget, and make a list.

You don’t have to buy everything for everyone you know. This year, I’ve made it a point to live with intention. I would rather have a few thoughtful gifts from people who really know me than a whole bunch of gifts from people I barely know, just because they feel obligated by the season.

Last week, I wrote about how to create your own holiday budget, so that you know exactly what to spend on whom. Don’t worry, it’s not too late.

Make another list—this time of possible gifts for people.

Maybe for some people it’s nice just to go into a huge store and just look around for something you like. But, there is such a thing as “decision fatigue.” The more choices you have at hand, the poorer your judgment gets. I’ve experienced this at a food court, where the possibilities are so many, and I often end up with a choice I’m not so satisfied with.

One possibility is to check out Pinterest.  Type in, for example,  “Christmas gifts for under X dollars.”  This way, you already have ideas of what you can get someone based on the budget you’ve allotted for them, as opposed to having all sorts of possibilities ahead of you. It’s more efficient, and way less exhausting.

Damon Beres, in writing for Reader’s Digest said, “One way around grabbing too many items or overspending is to make a simple list of specific gifts you’re looking for and referencing it throughout the day.”

If you’d like to do some secondhand shopping this Christmas, we’ve got you covered as well. Here’s a great article on secondhand shopping in Singapore.

Do some comparison shopping online before setting foot in brick and mortar stores.

One of the best things about the internet is that it’s made it easy to check prices online—or you can easily fire away questions on merchants’ message pages, or, if you don’t get immediate answers, pick up your phone and call the stores themselves. Customer service staff will only be to happy to lend you a hand. This way, you’ll know where the best prices for the gifts you want are offered.

Put on relaxing music in your phone, and don’t leave your earbuds at home.

Let’s not kid ourselves, shopping can be a stressful experience, especially when you’re doing it at the last minute. (And it feels like half of the country is in the queue for the lone cashier that’s open.) Make sure you listen to relaxing music on your way to your shopping trip—whether in the car, train or bus, and also when you take a break between stores or get something to eat.

If you get stressed, you’re likely to make poorer buying choices just to get the shopping over with. Or you might just call it a day and go home, only to realize you’ll have to do it all over again.

Let some soothing music help you keep the stress away, and finish your holiday shopping in relative peace. It will help you stick to your budget, believe it or not.

…as well as some money DONTs…

The number one thing I have on my list of holiday don’ts is this: do not do head math when you’re Christmas shopping. You may have a beautiful mind (we all do!) but your brain is not only finite but is subject to be forgetful when you are tired or hungry, or tired and hungry. Go old school and write things down. Having a small notebook and a pen with you at all times will help you stick to your budget. You’ll need to be more disciplined, but the effort will be worth it in the end.

Do not shop on weekends.

Stores are way more crowded on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. This becomes even more true as the holidays get closer. More people equals more stress all around. Our days are stressful enough, you really don’t want anything to add to that now do you?

Your better bet for holiday shopping is weekday evenings. You’ll get home later, it’s true, but at least the experience will be more leisurely and a lot less stressful.

Do not use your credit card for holiday shopping.

Try to do it all with cash. Yes, I know that this is easier said and done. I understand that using plastic is so much more convenient, earns you points, plus nobody really wants to carry around a lot of cash, especially in crowded malls during the holidays, right?

Oh, but wait. Using only cash for your holiday shopping is one way to ensure you stick to your budget. If you’re someone who tends to let their budget run away as if it’s wearing the newest Nike trainers, stick to cash.  When you do your accounting, you’ll be glad you did this!

Pro-tip: when holiday shopping, leave your credit card at home.

Some money experts would actually recommend putting it in a waterproof ziplock bag and then immersing it into a bowl of water that you freeze. And therefore your credit card sits in a block of ice in your freezer. Why? Because this would prevent any impulse purchases. By the time the ice melts enough that you can fish your card out, you’ll have had time to think about whether you really want to continue with the purchase or not.

BUT if you still feel better and safer about using your credit card for holiday shopping, no worries. We got you covered with this article on the type of credit cards that are the best for this purpose.

The New Savvy - Finance - Money Christmas dos and donts 3

Do not go shopping with your BFFs.

You might be thinking, ‘but it’s a bonding opportunity.’ Or, ‘but we haven’t seen each other in such a long time.’ Or, ‘but they make shopping so much fun!’

I do not doubt that all these may be true. However, we human beings are easily influenced by those in our social groups. It’s how we’re wired. Let’s say you’re out shopping, bound and determined to only buy that one special gift for your significant other. You go out with your besties, and they see a red dress that they’re sure will look simply gorgeous on you. You end up trying it on, and it does look great. Out goes the credit card, with your budget along with it.

Our friends are some of the greatest gifts we have in life. We need them. And we certainly should make time with them during the holidays. Just don’t go shopping with them. You’re much more likely to stick to your budget if you shop alone.

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Anna Maria Romero is the Deputy Director of Lifeline Foundation by day and a freelance writer by night. Lifeline Foundation’s advocacy includes empowerment through financial literacy, which is why she has written and taught on this subject on numerous occasions.An educator by profession and training, Anna Maria graduated from the University of the Philippines, cum laude, and taught for more than two decades, having opened a school in 1995. She stepped down as as principal of South City Central School in 2015 in order to pursue a career in the non-profit sector.She is a contributing writer to an online news site, and has been on the creative team of “This Journal Will Actually Change Someone’s Life” since 2008, which is published by FreeSpeech Publications in Manila, Philippines.Anna Maria is a passionate advocate, volunteer, organizer, counselor, communicator, editor, and traveler, who’s always ready to pack up and go where she’s needed.

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