How I’m adjusting my holiday shopping in an uncertain economy
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While fall is my favorite season, winter has all my favorite holidays. I look forward to the cooler weather, the Christmas tree search, the cookie decorating and, yes, even the present shopping. While I would love to get wrapped up in the whimsy of the season, I’ve also been paying attention to rising inflation, mailing delays, the growing trend for businesses to do pre-orders and smaller launches that may or may not be restocked later.
So even though I usually wouldn’t think of shopping until November, gathering all my goodies in one or two well-planned trips, I couldn’t risk starting so late. And I’m not alone. In fact, 40 percent of people were right along with me, adjusting their timeline, according to a recent Bankrate survey. With the unpredictability of the last few months, I refused to be the person battling over the last toy in the store aisle. So, I’m making my list, checking it twice — and getting my planner ready.
Here’s what I’m doing to adjust my holiday spending for the 2022 holiday season.
I’m starting early
Like many others, I decided to start my Christmas shopping early — mid-October, in fact. This was helped by the fact that I had been creating a present list throughout the year, so I knew what I wanted to get by the time fall started. I also knew what to get first. If someone wants a book or scarf, that’ll be much easier to get during a Black Friday sale than a customized gift, such as engraved jewelry or customized clothing. This alone took a lot of the stress off my plate.
Another thing that has helped a lot is my card’s 0 percent intro APR offer. For my card, it lasts 15 months, and there are other cards that offer even longer intro APR periods. While interest can seem like a small thing initially, it’s what’s getting affected the most from the inflation hikes. By using this feature, this will not only cover all my holiday expenses but also give me time to recover once the Christmas lights are taken down.
Suggested card: Citi Custom Cash Card
With a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then a 18.74 percent to 28.74 percent variable APR), the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card gives you plenty of time to pay off your balance without interest. You also earn 5 percent cash back on your highest spend category (up to $500, then 1 percent), so no matter how you shop, you can be rewarded. Be sure to compare your options when choosing a 0 percent intro APR card to find the best one for your needs.
I’m shopping sales
I’m sure I’m not the only one hearing mentions of “Black Friday sales all month long” on commercials, nor am I the only one paying attention. What used to be regulated to a single day or even weekend has now expanded to sales through the entirety of November. Remember all those presents that I said are much easier to get? I’m getting them now while they’re 20 to 50 percent off.
Even better, perks like Amex offers or Chase offers often offer 1 percent to 10 percent cash back on popular brands like Adidas, H&M, local restaurants and more, making it easy to maximize cash back while I shop. These offers can last for a month or longer, giving me time to shop for exactly what I want. Check your credit card to see if these bonuses are offered for a chance to earn more
Suggested card: Amex Blue Cash Everyday
With the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, not only do you get 1 to 10 percent cash back on popular brands when you use Amex Offers, but you also earn 3 percent cash back when you shop online at U.S. retailers. It’s all savings with no hassle.
I’m looking for hidden discounts online
Imagine my surprise when I found out that there are a lot of discounts for certain brands or products that aren’t displayed on the website when you shop. Without knowing it, there may be an under-the-radar sale on a few products — or, if I’m lucky, the entire site. For brands that I shop often, this may involve signing up for email newsletters or keeping an eye on social media pages, as they tend to announce sales there first, including ones that are on the horizon.
Something else that has been very helpful are tools like Capital One Shopping, which looks for coupons and savings automatically when I shop online, my preferred way to shop. Finally, someone else can do the coupon cutting and double-checking, while I debate whether I really need that extra pair of socks.
Suggested card: Capital One Venture Rewards
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is one of Bankrate’s highest-rated cards for a reason. It gives you 2X miles on everyday purchases and access to Capital One Shopping, which will show you all available discounts wherever you shop online. You’ll also earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, helping you to earn more on the vacation you’ll need once the hectic season is over.
I shop with my points on Amazon
Could someone say that I shop at Amazon too much according to the piled-up boxes in my recycling? Possibly. However, that does not change the fact that it is indeed convenient and I can use my cash back directly on the app with Amazon Prime’s Shop with Points feature. This is one of many ways to shop on Amazon with credit cards.
I’ll be honest. In comparison to other methods of cash back redemption, Shop with Points is definitely not the best. Usually, you get the lowest value when redeeming this way. But for me, it works very well, especially when I consider how much I shop at Amazon. My cash back is easy to redeem and I receive most of my presents and decorations in less than a week, a win-win for me.
Suggested card: Discover it Cash Back
The many perks of the Discover it® Cash Back make it one of the best rotating category cards on the market, from its Cashback Match welcome offer that doubles the cash back you earn in your first year to announcing its 5 percent bonus categories (activation required) early so you can plan accordingly.
For me, the 5 percent cash back on Amazon.com and digital wallets from now until the end of December paired with the 1:1 redemption on Amazon’s Shop with Points makes this a handy shopping tool.
The bottom line
When I think about the changes I’ve made to my shopping habits, it doesn’t feel as monumental as I thought it would be. While it is awkward to be looking for Christmas presents while the Halloween candy is still out, I love that I’m saving both money — by using my credit card to its fullest potential — and time.
So, this year, I won’t have to spend that precious week before Christmas behind my computer or running around a store too stressed to think of maximizing my rewards. I’ll be relaxing at home, watching a cheesy holiday movie.