Holiday shopping advice from Extension experts

Holiday shopping advice from Extension experts

Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 8:03 pm

KNOXVILLE — ’Tis the season to give.
But before you give, you have to shop. While we’d all like to be generous in our gift giving this holiday season, many of us have to watch our spending in these uncertain economic times. To help you make the most of your holiday funds, consumer experts with University of Tennessee Extension have a few tips to shop smartly this Christmas season beyond the old adage, “Have a budget and stick to it.”
“Holiday shopping can get you in the spirit of the season, but it’s often accompanied by a nagging feeling that you’re overspending,” said Dr. Dena Wise, a Family and Consumer Sciences expert with UT Extension. “Listening to that nagging little voice may be the best thing you can do for your budget during the holidays.”
According to Wise, it’s often a lack of planning and the “hidden” expenses of the holidays that hurt our bank accounts. Items such as travel, taxes on purchases, gift wrapping, seasonal clothing, extra groceries, decorations and after-Christmas shopping greatly increase the amount of money spent during the holidays.
“People plan their budget around gifts and lists, and forget about many other expenses,” Wise said. “Take these additional items into account, estimate how much more you will spend, and set aside money for these things.”
Wise advises people cut down on certain items that may get pricey during the holidays. Limit travel as much as possible, avoid the urge to eat expensive meals out or bake lots of treats in the home — which don’t do much for your waistline or your bottom line — and avoid last-minute shopping. Impulse buying — especially when it comes to stocking stuffers and unexpected people added to your list — is often quite expensive.
Wrapping paper that is torn to shreds can be another wasteful expense. Wise encourages you to give gifts in holiday bags that can then be reused in the future.
Wise also said you can cut your decorating budget with a little creativity around the home. “You can use children’s toys or stuffed animals or musical instruments as decorations. Just tie a ribbon around them. You can also use greenery from your yard to make decorations.”
As soon as this holiday season ends, it’s not too early to be thinking about your budget for Christmas 2012. “Accumulate gifts throughout the year, and keep a stash of gifts at home in case you need something last minute,” Wise said. Wise also encourages Tennesseans to buy local products to support the local economy and to buy only gifts that people will find useful, rather than something that may look nice, but really has no purpose. She says gift cards that you know the recipient will use are always welcome.
Another budgeting idea is to use online markets such as eBay for holiday shopping for bargains or to sell things you no longer need to generate extra income during the holidays. Blount County agent Chris Sneed teaches eBay and online shopping and selling classes as part of UT Extension’s Economic Solutions Initiative. He helps people determine if online selling will be worth their time and instructs them in the process of photographing items, building an Internet ad and communicating effectively in those online transactions.
“I would say the first step would be to research and then maybe to even buy something yourself so you really understand the process and kind of how it works,” Sneed said. “Once you know that, then it’s just a matter of following steps right through to the end.”

Published in The Messenger 12.6.11

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