This month, we’re getting prepped for holiday time. We can feel it in the air, in the store windows, in our appetites, and we are itching to pull out the wallet and get buying. As exciting as it is to spend (eyes bulge, heart pounds, pulse races), though, holiday shopping makes us all jittery—and not in a feel-good coffee-high way. That’s because as we move toward the frenzy of hand-over-fist buying, being money smart gets harder, and the urge to shop starts to feel less like strategy and more like impulse than we’d like.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being hedonistic when it comes to buying stuff we love. Why trouble yourself with the future when you can enjoy this powerful I-must-have-that-NOW moment? Um, because before we know it, it’s Oops, how much did I spend exactly? Hopefully we’re not shopping addicts. (Yikes, time to take the Shopaholic Test and find out.) But we know this: we hate getting stuck suffering shop regret when the big bills arrive. Since November just happens to be Financial Literacy Month, the time is ripe for our mission to get literate about finances.
We already know how to be an investment ninja and how to grow our bank account in 10 easy steps. Now we’re playing with flash cards from Interac in order to learn what we can do to save while we spend—so we can spend even more.
GET MONEY SMART: 5 TIPS TO STRETCH YOUR DOLLARS (SO YOU CAN SHOP MORE)
1. Take a Breather. Guilt is like slime. Once you start feeling it, you can’t shake it. So why not try some guilt-free shopping for a change? Instead of buying fast then letting the guilt come for you later, stop and take stock before you buy. We’ve all done it. You’re standing around hemming and hawing, trying to decide if this stunning new bag is or isn’t worth the hefty price tag. Suddenly, Mom’s words are in your head: If you don’t *really love* it, you don’t really want it! Next time you’re trying to decide if it’s a keeper or not, do this: Take a pic, and give yourself 24 hours. Yes, we know it’s hard. We can hear the sound of your heart ripping as you put it back on the shelf. PS. Check the store’s return policy. If you can only get a credit, you definitely must be sure. And while you’re at it, check the hold policy. Most stores will let you put your item on hold while you mull it over.
2. Do a Comparison Shop. There’s nothing wrong with doing your homework. In fact, it’s necessary. When you pay full price, and you may have gotten the same items for less, you’ll end up kicking yourself. Talk about a shopping buzzkill. All it takes is a little research online to check out deals and coupons for the same item. You don’t have to be a coupon clipper to hit google. The time it takes to find out if that coffee maker your hubby will love is on sale somewhere is worth every penny saved. Too many times, we’ve been surprised at what we discover in a good ol’ comparison shop. With the internet at your fingertips, the best deal is easier than ever to find, and you’ll feel like Superwoman if you do.
3. Give Your Loyalty Wisely These days, it seems as if everywhere is giving out free loyalty cards that net you loads of free stuff. Hey, hold up here. What in life is ever really free, right? Plus, carrying around a mess of cards in your wallet is, well, a mess. How many of us actually check the fine print and know what those cards actually save? The best cards to keep and use are the ones that give you something tangible you can count on to save money—such as building up points you can redeem. Even then, though, beware. You’re likely earning points only on items that aren’t on sale when those discounted items will save you more in the end. One bonus reward that’s worth carrying around a card is one that lets you earn points when you use your own money instead of credit. Bonus reward: In case you haven’t thought that far ahead, you should. Paying now instead of later lands you interest-free savings, too. Hmmmm…
4. Buy Now, Pay Now Even if you’re a math whiz (we admit it, we suck), you shouldn’t have to do mental gymnastics to figure out whether you can afford to buy. And the fact is, the more credit cards you’ve got, the more difficult this exercise becomes. There’s no way you’re going to keep track of all your purchases if you’re spreading them out onto different cards. There is one surefire way to make sure you can afford what you want. If you use your debit card instead of credit, you know—this instant—just how much you have to spend. That’s a real load off, especially when you’ve got a lot more than usual to buy. Hello, long list of family and friends who are expecting a gift this year.
5. Don’t Forget to Lose Interest If you are going to use credit, that’s okay, too, but you always have to keep in mind the extra fees. If the bank tacks on interest, don’t celebrate the fact that you got the coat for 30 per cent off too soon because you didn’t save much. The interest just may counteract any savings you may have scored. Listen up. Credit cards are meant to be paid off. In full. Every month. If you can’t do it, don’t use it—because in the end, you’ll be paying the bank. If you know it’ll be too hard to clear your monthly statement, then do yourself a favour and consciously use a combo of credit and debit when you’re buying in order to make the end-of-month hit more manageable. Shop regret never helped anyone.
Although this post was sponsored by Interac, as usual, all opinions are our own.