- Make a list and check it twice
Write down everyone you plan to give gifts to—from your nearest and dearest to the mail carrier. Then put a dollar figure next to each name. Having price limits in mind is one of the most fundamental holiday budgeting tips for avoiding overspending. Three more ways to keep an eye on costs: review account statements, pay bills regularly and use Online Banking to monitor holiday spending.
- Shop smarter. Bring your smartphone.
When you spot a deal at the mall, look before you pounce. Use your phone to see if you can get the same thing for a better price elsewhere. If the original store has a price-match policy, you can cash in on extra savings then and there.
- The early bird catches the savings
Last-minute shoppers estimate that they spend an average of $250 more than those who get a jump on holiday shopping, according to a 2012 survey by the American Research GroupFootnote2.
- Buy last year's electronics
Sure, the latest smartphone can do everything this side of baking bread. But will your gift recipient use even half its features? If not, chances are they'll be just fine with what was, after all, the "latest" smartphone just a few months ago.
- Circle the dates: Black Friday and Cyber Monday
But do your research before you brave the crowds or hit your keyboard. While many deals really are doorbusters, you may just find you can beat other "bargains" any day of the week.
- Get back some green with credit card rewards
Use the right credit card and you can pick up rewards for purchases you were planning to make anyway. Want to surprise your family with a trip? Consider a travel rewards card to earn travel rewards for your purchases. And for your general spending, use a card that lets you earn more cash back for the things you buy most. For example, with the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ credit card, you can get 1% cash back on purchases everywhere, every time, 2% cash back at grocery stores and 3% cash back on gas for the first $1,500 in combined purchases in those categories each quarter.
- Why buy all your gifts when you can bake some?
Homemade presents like a plate of fresh-baked sugar cookies (perhaps accompanied by your secret recipe) can feel a lot more personal than an off-the-shelf item. And chances are you'll spend a lot less, too.
- Buying a big-ticket item? Start saving up for it automatically.
If you're an Online Banking customer, you can set up an automatic savings transfers. Simply decide how much money to move from your checking account into your savings account, and how often. Before you know it, you'll be ready to make that big purchase.
- Don't shop 'til you drop
Sticking to your shopping list can help you avoid going off on a spree. It's also smart to take a break between buys. Yale University researchers have found that making a purchase can trigger what they call the "shopping momentum effect"—a psychological impulse to buy subsequent items. To counteract the effect, just walk away from the store or computer screen for a few minutes. And no window-shopping on your way out.
- Skip the shipping charges
A great bargain can turn into a not-so-amazing deal once you factor in shipping costs. So watch for retailers who ship for free, and search for coupon codes for free shipping. And don't forget, many retailers offer a Free Shipping Day Layer
- Save time, money and gas. Shop online.
Just think: No crowds. Endless options at your fingertips. And no hands-on temptations. (According to a study by researchers at UCLA and the University of Wisconsin, holding an item can boost your desire to buy it—and your willingness to pay more for it.)
And remember, it's always a good time to save. If you're an Online or Mobile Banking customer, you can earn up to 15% cash backFootnote3 all year long with BankAmeriDeals®, both online and in stores.