Sun. Jun 16th, 2024


Santa Claus and his team of reindeer are next to the supersized spooky skeleton.

You haven’t passed out a single Snickers candy bar to cute-costumed children, yet it’s already beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Grouse if you want, but consumers have lost the battle to hold off holiday shopping until after the Thanksgiving turkey has been sliced and the Black Friday sales begin.

Retailers, after all, have to make those bucks off your generosity — or gift-giving guilt. Last year, retail sales during the November-December holiday season were $936.3 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

More than 1 in 4 holiday shoppers are open to shopping earlier this year, according to a new Shopify-Gallup Holiday Shopper Pulse survey conducted in early September.

Among young adults, nearly half — 48 percent — say they would definitely or probably start their shopping early. And one-third of holiday shoppers, including 48 percent of young adults, expect to do at least “a little of it” on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

“Younger shoppers are also the subgroup most inclined to say they will increase their holiday shopping compared with last year,” according to Gallup.

Just one thing before you click online or trek to a store. Figure out what kind of shopper you are, and how that can affect your holiday budget.

Here are five types of shoppers. Which are you, and has it served you well?

You set a budget, but it’s blown before you wrap your first gift.

Even if your love language is gift-giving, watch your spending.

Over half of holiday shoppers expect to feel financially burdened this year, according to a survey.

If you’re an overspender, look over your credit card and debit card statements from last holiday season. Did you have any regrets about your generosity?

Did you rack up debt you’re still paying off?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, push yourself to cut back this year.

If you need a shove, I suggest you cut your budget by 50 percent.

Yes, you read that right. By half. That’s my gift to you, because if I had outstanding credit card debt, I wouldn’t buy anyone anything. The average credit card rate is a record 20.72 percent, according to Bankrate.

But I recognize you might need to take things a little more slowly to avoid a shock to your kindhearted soul. So trim your spending by at least 20 percent. It’s not where I would be, but it’s a start.

Credit card debt tops $1 trillion, trapping even six-figure earners

A gift for you, one for me

You just can’t resist treating shopping as a twofer. You see a pretty sweater for your sister, and you have to have one for yourself. Buying the kids a new mobile phone? Well, why not upgrade yours too?

You can treat yourself if you have the following: A good emergency fund (at least one month’s worth of expenses), no credit card debt and you’re saving for retirement.

Otherwise, cut yourself off. Stop splurging on yourself while shopping for others if your money isn’t right.

You live for a sale. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are your glory days.

Your personal holiday mantra is: Born to shop and save!

I hate to bust your bargain hunting bubble, but you never save when you spend. Say that to yourself, repeatedly.

Buying something on sale doesn’t mean you’re saving. You’re just spending less money.

Bargains make us feel as though we’ve beaten the retailers at their own game, write Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler in “Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter.”

But many sales are just bait.

If you want more personal finance advice that’s timeless, order your copy of Michelle Singletary’s Money Milestones.

“When we see a sale, we shouldn’t consider what the price used to be or how much we’re spending,” the authors write. “Rather we should consider what we’re actually going to spend. Buying a $60 shirt marked down from $100 isn’t ‘saving $40.’ It is spending $60.”

Last year, researchers for Consumers’ Checkbook spent 33 weeks tracking sale prices at 24 major retailers. The nonprofit found many sales are bogus discounts.

The “regular price” is seldom what customers pay.

“It’s all designed to make you feel so good about what you pay that you’ll snap up more stuff,” the report said.

Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it’s a bargain.

How retailers make fools of us at the sales rack

Procrastination leads to poor buying decisions. In a rush to find anything, you can easily overshoot your holiday budget because you’re desperate and tired. This makes you susceptible to overspending.

Or maybe you like the thrill of waiting for the last-minute bargains. If so, see my last point.

If you’re prone to panic shopping and as a result overshoot your budget, set a deadline to get all your holiday shopping done. And stick to that target date!

Holiday shopping season is here, at least according to retailers

Half of holiday shoppers plan to begin their holiday buying spree before the end of October, according to Bankrate.

It’s not a bad idea to start your holiday shopping early. And it’s not because of the sales.

Many early bird shoppers get it right because they have a plan and spread their purchases over several months.

Less stress, more mindful spending.

B.O.M. — The best of Michelle Singletary on personal finance

If you have a personal finance question for Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary, please call 1-855-ASK-POST (1-855-275-7678).

My mortgage payoff story: My husband and I paid off the house in the spring of 2023 thanks to making extra payments and taking advantage of a mortgage recast. Even though it lowered my perfect 850 credit score and my column about it sparked some serious debate with readers, it was one of the best financial decisions I’ve made.

Credit card debt: If you’re in the habit of carrying credit card debt, stop. It’s just a myth that it will boost your credit score. For those looking to get out of credit card debt, see if a balance transfer is right for you.

Money moves for life: For a more sweeping overview of my timeless money advice, see Michelle Singletary’s Money Milestones. The interactive package offers guidance for every life stage, whether you’re just starting out in your career or planning for retirement.

Test yourself: Do you know where you stand financially? Take our quiz and read more personal finance advice.

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