(BPT) - Americans will spend more than $6 billion this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. How much of that will be overspending or outright wasted money? It’s possible to control holiday spending and make smart money decisions this holiday season, if you keep in mind the “three P’s”: plan, purchase and protect.
When looking for the perfect presents, you’ll eliminate much of your shopping stress, and be better able to avoid impulse spending. When it’s time to purchase, do your research to make sure you find the best possible deal. Finally, once you’ve made your purchase decisions, protect special or costly items from mechanical breakdown or accidental damage.
Personal finance expert Erica Sandberg offers more tips to help you master each “P” this holiday season:
Start by carefully considering how much you’re willing to spend on all holiday-related shopping – including gifts, travel, decorations and meals. Remember, you shouldn’t have trouble paying routine bills because you’ve overspent on holiday stuff.
After you’ve established a holiday budget, you can make a gift list that takes into account how much you’ve budgeted for each person.
It’s a common enough mistake – equating the amount you spend on an individual with how much you care about him or her. But the gift that will please a person the most is one that speaks to his or her individual tastes, and not necessarily how much it cost. Stick with gift ideas that you’re confident the recipient will love – and don’t worry if they don’t come with a big price tag.
When shopping, online resources are great for comparing prices. And shopping online saves you gas, time and energy. With many retail sites offering free shipping and big sales, online shopping can be a convenient, cost-effective way to fulfill your gift list.
But in-store shopping has numerous benefits as well. Retailers are working hard to counter the online shopping trend, so great deals can be had for savvy shoppers who hit the stores. Plus, shopping in person allows you to enjoy the lights, carols and festive atmosphere of the holiday season.
Some of the season’s hottest gifts, such as electronics and jewelry, also are the most vulnerable. Everyone’s experienced the frustration of a brand new device that stops working the day after the warranty expires, or that suffers a problem not covered by the warranty even when it’s still in effect. This is when a protection plan can come in handy.
Sometimes called extended service contracts or service plans, protection plans are usually offered at the time of sale. Before you finalize your purchase, take a moment to hear about the features and benefits the protection plan includes.
In addition to covering problems that might be excluded from the standard warranty, protection plans may be bundled with valuable services like technical support – a great bonus for anyone on your shopping list who’s not tech savvy. Wall mounting services for flat screen TVs might be an option, and data backup for electronics also may be included.
Protection plans aren’t limited to electronics. They’re often available for jewelry and watches as well. These plans may include maintenance and extended care that can help keep your special gift looking beautiful for years.
As with any purchase you make, be sure to check out your protection plan carefully before you purchase it. With so many providers out there, it’s important to know you’re dealing with a highly reputable company that’s been caring for consumers for decades. Ask your retailer who administers the plan. If it’s a reliable company like Assurant Solutions, you can feel comfortable that you’ve made a wise decision.
Adding a protection plan to a gift purchase can be an inexpensive, easy way to show that you care enough about the gift you’re giving to ensure it’s protected for years to come. By making sure you plan, purchase and protect your perfect presents, you can ensure your holiday is a happy one, without breaking the bank.