Ask the Readers: Is Now the Time to Shop?

By Linsey Knerl on 20 October 2009 (Updated 26 October 2009) 57 comments
Photo: Ivan Petrov

***We have our winners!****

In the past, I have used credit card points to buy gift cards for Lands End or Toys R Us to then purchased gifts for my kids and relatives. But this year, I started my own business so I can now shop at the Sample Sale of a local gift trade show. I am so excited! My friends and I are going together and I hope the prices are as good as I've heard. I very rarely go shopping for fun anymore so I'm looking forward to the event as much as the sale prices.

 

Whether are not you are fully convinced that a falling dollar will put a crunch on how far your holiday spending will get you, there are many advantages to buying early (especially when you can get a fabulous deal.)  All the hype, however, has caused a few people to consider buying very early -- before they even have the money -- putting Christmas gifts on a low or no-interest rate credit card in anticipation of what the dollar may do (or not do) come December.

Are you thinking that maybe, this year is a "special" year?  Do you think it may be wise to buy as soon as possible, instead of waiting out the pending Black Friday tradition and the savings that accompany it?  Or are you going to play it straight, save your cash, and buy when you can afford it (regardless of that pesky shrinking buck)?

I want to hear your thoughts on the holidays and the U.S. economy -- if you have any.  If not, just let us know what you usually do each holiday (use credit, cash, layaway, or a combo of both?)  Share them  here in our comment thread or on Twitter, and you'll be entered to win one of two $10 Amazon giveaways. It won't offset global economic crises..but it's good for a nice paperback. Dozens of readers have already won. You could be next!

Win a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate

We're doing two giveaways — one for random comments, and another one for a random tweets.

How to Enter:

  1. Post your answer in the comments below, or
  2. Tweet your answer. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

At the end of the drawing, we'll update this post to include (and link to) all of your helpful responses.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Thursday, October 22nd at 11:59 am CST. Winners will be announced after October 22nd on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email and Twitter Direct Message.
  • You can enter both drawings -- once by leaving a comment and once by tweeting.
  • Only tweets that contain both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" will be entered. (Otherwise, we won't see it.)

Good luck!

0
No votes yet
Your rating: None
ShareThis

comments

57 discussions

Add New Comment

CAPTCHA
This test helps prevent automated spam submissions.
Guest's picture
Guest

I budget but use my CC. I redeem the CC's rewards in credit card credit, shop, and then pay off any excess balance in one month.

That way, I stay in budget and use my 'reward points' to discount my holiday buys.

Overall, I think that most people will not spend as much nor travel as much this year.

PS: If this post wins the drawing, please donate the award
to the prison book program. Thank you.

http://www.prisonbookprogram.org/

Guest's picture
MB

I used to overspend every year.

This year I set a budget for gifts about a month ago and am strictly adhering. To make the budget stretch further, I have been carefully shopping the clearance racks, using gift cards I received last year for Xmas presents (if I haven't used them yet, I'm probably not going to), taken mystery shopping assignments at retail stores where I can use my reimbursement for gifts, and redeeming my SwagBucks and MyPoints to get gift cards to use to purchase gifts or give as gifts.

Guest's picture
Betty

I use my credit card all year long for everything, paying it in full each month. When the holidays roll around, I can get gift cards with my "miles". My one brother gets restaurant cards, my other brother gets Home Depot, and my daughter gets movie tickets. Through out the year, I'll pick up things I see on sale to go along with the gift cards. I'm never in a store from October-January. Works for me!

Guest's picture

So far I purchased a few Christmas presents for various family members. I matched store coupons with sales and found a few incredible deals at Macy's. Macy's has a 180 day return policy so I know the receivers of my gifts will have plenty of of time to return anything they don't like. I tend to complete my Christmas shopping by the first week of December and I imagine this year will not be an exception.

Guest's picture
Emily

My spending doesn't really change much throughout the year. I don't tend to splurge on a bunch of stuff at once just because the sales seem good. I save up for big purchases and don't buy anything unless I'm certain that I can afford it. Granted, I'll take advantage of sales and prefer to buy everything at a discount, but I won't buy anything just because it's 70% off. I also try to plan ahead for birthdays and holidays so that if I happen to see something that I would get for a gift and it happens to be on sale, then I'll buy it, even if the occasion is months away.

Guest's picture
Christy

I'm shopping now...if I see something useful and on sale. I've bought a couple things in October, will keep looking in November, and should be done by December. We are getting a Wii for our family so i've been picking up parts (controller, game) as they come on sale. We won't buy the actual console until closer to Christmas just because we want to be able to return it (within the return window) if it's defective.

Guest's picture
Hyper

I think now is a great time to shop. I've been holding off on new shoes and clothes and found a ton of deals lately. That said, I'm not going to spend much outside of my needs. It'll be a simple Xmas this year.

Financial Samurai's picture

Cars and luxury watches are trading at HUGE discounts now in the secondary market, b/c these are the most useless things one can spend money on.

If you want your Rolex or BMW, now is the time to shop for sure!

Keigu,

Financial Samurai
"Slicing Through Money's Mysteries"

Guest's picture
Jenny

Last year I put it on a credit card. This year I have been saving my daycare spending account for a couple months and will withdraw that money holiday time and use that for the little one.

Guest's picture

If you have money to spend, I think shopping any time is fine. I mostly track clothing and accessory prices, and within the last year or so have seen amazing prices both on and offline. Retailers are fighting each other for customers $$$. I just scored a new winter coat (which was desperately needed and have been searching for the perfect one for 3 years) that originally retailed for $418 and I paid $108...I haven't seen a price like that in years.

I don't think prices will go up much more than they normally do during the holiday season, so if I see a great sale I will buy now. However, if you are purchasing a gift, you might want to check the store's return policies. For that reason I'm holding off on most Christmas gifts for another month or so since I have some picky family members.

Another consideration is can you wait until right after the holidays to exchange gifts? I don't always exchange gifts before the holiday, so if I can I like to wait a day or two after Christmas when everything goes on sale. My typical gift to my brother is that I take him clothes shopping the weekend following Christmas. He loves it because this allows him to buy more clothes, he chooses them himself, and he gets his own personal shopper.

Guest's picture
susan

I tend to shop early (starting in September)and then shop late ALSO because the prices keep dropping and dropping as we get closer to the holiday. Some prices are just too good to resist and I buy gifts just because they're a great bargain! I think this year I will go against my norm and buy late. This time I know to just wait for the bargains.

Guest's picture
Susan

Our plan this year is to use only cash. Last year we started putting money into an ING savings account each paycheck so that we'd be able to budget our gifts. In the past we used credit cards and christmas gifts of cash we ourselves received to pay them off. This year I'd actually like to use those cash gifts for us or to pay off more debt.

We'll be keeping an eye for huge sales and if something seems best to get it now we'll go ahead and get it. Just for ease of doing it all at once though we're likely to buy entirely during the holiday season.

Guest's picture
SarahB

Every year, I start keeping my eyes open for Christmas presents/ideas during August and try to have most if not all my Christmas shopping done by the end of November.

I use cash, my debt card, and my credit card (which is paid off in full every month) to purchase Christmas presents. I try to buy a few Christmas presents each month starting in August that way it spreads out the spending and everything is paid before Christmas.

I already have a few things for my parents, husband and my in-laws for Christmas. My two nieces, my brother and one grandmother are completely done.

Since my nieces have tons of toys, I bought them books, activity books, playdough sets and a game; all on end-of-summer markdown and topped it off with crayons, markers, colored pencils, and paint that was on deep discount for back to school. Which is going to make for some great, inexpensive presents that they'll hope get lots of use out of.

Guest's picture
Brian

I buy Christmas gifts throughout the year. I have money put away for gifts and I buy when I see a good deal on what I'd like to give. Of course some things have to wait until Nov-Dec because they'll be outgrown, obsolete, etc.

As for payment, I typically use my debit card at the store or a credit card online. Both give rewards, but I prefer not to put my debit card on the web.

Guest's picture
Kevin

Well, we don't have this Black Friday tradition (I guess the closest we get is Boxing Day) So really there's no good reason to wait. Like so many other things in life that take a lot of time and cost a lot of money, best to spread it out a bit. For me, the state of the economy has nothing to do with this. I'll always start in September and finish in November.

You'd be surprised at how a few Hallowe'en nick-nacks can brighten up a stocking and make people laugh, by the way, and after Nov 1 they're dirt cheap! Plus, they'll use them next Hallowe'en. Beats some of the plastic stocking crap they sell for Xmas.

Now, for my wife, that's a different story altogether. We shop for each other on Boxing day.

Guest's picture
Kate

I don't think there's ever a right time to "spend before [you] even have the money." If you don't have the money, you shouldn't be spending it.

Guest's picture

Tip of the hat to the JARS system for budgeting. We started this simple, automated plan about 6 months ago and it's proven flawless for us. Since the holidays are already budgeted for...no worries about the economy...but we still shop for deals.

Our paychecks are direct deposited and on the 15th of every month and I set up the following accounts to be "paid" automatically.

Necessity Account (NEC - 55% of total imcome): This account is for managing your everyday expenses and bills and includes things like your rent, mortgage, utilities, bills, taxes, food, clothes, etc.

> Financial Freedom Account (FFA - 20% of total checks): This account is your ticket to financial freedom. The money that you put into this jar is used for investments and building your passive income streams. We never spend this money.

> Give Account (GIve- 10% of total checks): The money in this jar to give to family and friends on birthdays, special occasions and holidays

> Long Term Saving for Spending Account (LTSS - 10% of total checks): The money in this jar is for the bigger nice to have purchases....cars, vacations and the like.

> Play Account (PLAY - 5% of total checks): PLAY money is spent every month on purchases you wouldn’t normally make. Call it your mad money.

Guest's picture
Cynthia

This is definately time ...don't wait til christmas is here

Guest's picture

Technically I don't have a dog in this hunt, since virtually all my shopping is either done (thanks, yard sales and clearance tables!) or will be finished up by my earning Swagbucks and MyPoints to pay for gifts.
That said, if I saw a truly astounding price on something I wanted to give I would likely buy it -- but only because I have the cash in hand to pay for it. Going into debt for a gift, even a gift to myself, would make me uneasy.

Guest's picture

It's funny you asked this, because I just bought my kids' major Christmas present today. I hesitated, thinking it may go on sale later, but bought it anyway for the peace of mind of having it. I imagine Black Friday won't be as good as last year anyway.

Guest's picture
Therese

I am going to spend about the same amount as I did last year, and try to find things on sale. I also try to make some presents.

Guest's picture
Honey

I am going to set aside money from a forthcoming freelance check to buy Christmas gifts this year (having it ahead of time will be better than last year, when I put it on a CC and then paid it off with my extra paycheck in January).

But for next year, I opened a subaccount in my ING and will put money there slowly throughout the year, and then transfer it to my ING checking to buy the gifts with my debit card (this will be the only thing I use that checking account for, I think).

Guest's picture
Stefanie

I already have some of my holiday presents that I've bought since last December at sales or discount stores (i.e., frames for craft projects at Ross or TJ Maxx). Its been a difficult year financially for my immediate family, as well as emotionally (several family deaths), and so I think this year will be pretty low-key and centered on meaningful, but inexpensive, presents.

Guest's picture
Carole

We don't celebrate Christmas, so shopping for the holiday is no problem at all. I do think it is just a way to waste hard earned money. You can give a kid to much, and they don't appreciate it. They just want more.

Guest's picture
Laura

I also shop ahead for Christmas, so I only need to buy a few more gifts at this point. I'll wait for the Black Friday sales like I usually do. We can't predict what's going to happen in the future, so why spend money you don't have?

Guest's picture
Sarah

The only reason I'm waiting to buy has to do with taxes. Sales tax in Chicago is 10.25%, while it's somewhere around 6% in Des Moines. I'll be in Des Moines for about a week and a half before Christmas, and will be buying everything there.

I don't think my strategy would differ were it not for the tax situation.

Guest's picture
sue tauber

I will shop for the holiday by watching out for the weekly sales flyers in my weekly paper and online ad.

When you I see an item I am really want to buy and its a great deal I will buy it.

The best deals are the week before thanksgiving th at;s when are the real sales start.

I have my on dvd player that's hd comptable When I see a great price I will buy it

Guest's picture
Carolyn

The best time to shop is year round. You're not in a mad rush
like the other crazies!

Guest's picture
Sean

Post number 28 says it all. I didn't start shopping until late July, and I feel a little rushed to finish now.

I just started reading money saving blogs, and I'm amazed how much the techniques have payed off so far.

Guest's picture

It is the right time do shopping when prices decrease. If you can off course...

Holiday stories : httP://WWW.BOOKITNOW.COM

Guest's picture
Kerrie

I shop year round. everyone is my family is a little older and we all love and appreciate gifts such as candles, bath oils,fun socks stuff like that. when I see these items go on clearance I buy them and put them in a closet that i call the gift closet. I usually keep it pretty full that anytime I need a gift I can just pull one out.
My mom does this too and I think its funny to go through her gift closet and wonder what I'll be getting this year!

Guest's picture
Stacey Marcos

I personally find it embarrassing when I receive extravagant presents at Christmas. Presents I know the person cannot really afford. All in an attempt to make it "special" as per the retailers.

You can't do better then if you take a little time and think of a thoughtful small gift.

I purchase things throughout the year. Things that say to me "I really think _____ would really enjoy or appreciate this." Stop the guilty, media driven spending.

Christmas is about celebrating a certain great person's birthday, not going into debt over shiny new crap that you'll rarely use.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

BTW, I hate the shopping channel I wish it would die a painful death along with all the product placement infecting every facet of our lives.

Guest's picture
Amy

We have been trying to cut back at Christmas for a couple years now. It just seemed like it was getting out of hand and we were starting to miss the point. So I think we'll be thinking a little more carefully and spending less than we once did. But this time of the year is when we start picking things up that seem to be a good deal. Since we have recently gotten out of debt, I don't think we'll be using credit cards either. It feels good not to have that burden hanging over our heads!

Guest's picture
Olivia

We budget a set amount for gifts and postage each year. We start to gather gifts right after Christmas and stash them in the sunroom. This allows us the leisure to plan, get great buys, and have the stuff ready to mail to family by Thanksgiving. If I were really on top of things I'd wrap everything as I go. Eventually.

Guest's picture
fairydust

We'll probably cut back this year. Our son has asked for one big gift as a combined b-day (late November) and Christmas present, and we'll add a few smaller things to that, then give each other a couple things. I'm usually watching all year long for potential gifts, but frankly haven't seen anything yet, even with great deals available online and in stores...

Guest's picture
Lauren McCormick

Since I have had children, I dread the holidays. My husband is a spender and a Christmas freak! All I can think of is what I have to buy for everyone in the free world. This year, I asked the children to come up with things they could make or give to other family members. My daughter suggested making placemats because she loves to draw, and we can get anything laminated. My son still wants to be boring, but we will think of something. My son will walk the dog for you, etc. It is nice that they are thinking of others for a change, and it is not all "gimme, gimme, gimme."

Guest's picture
Tammy S

We won't really change the way I shop for holiday gifts. I am always exceptionally frugal (some say cheap!), work with a budget and a list and only shop big sales all through the year.
I NEVER use my credit card for gifts (unless I have to order something on line) - only cash.
I can't imagine changing that now regardless of what happens.
Thanks

Guest's picture
Leah

I am already shopping- I actually shop around the year, primarily at the December/January sales of the previous year for gifts to give in the following year. This way I can make the most of the credit card rewards that are issued in January.
One big change for Christmas is that we are not giving individual gifts anymore, only one "family" gift. We are trying to pare down and create meaningful memories, not just fill space under the tree.
Since we had a baby this year, I dressed him up in outfits reminiscent of each month and created a photo calendar to give to the grandparents and great-grandparents. Buying early with sales and discount codes brought each calendar's cost to $10! Yay!
Other gifts we'll give are baked goods combined with herbal teas or coffees, gourmet spice boxes from Penzeys, or donations to our favorite charity, World Vision (or the recipient's fav org.)Be done with it all by Dec. 1 and avoid the stress!

Guest's picture
Tammy

As an adult, I've always tried to live frugally, but this year's Christmas shopping will be more frugal than usual. I've already started purchasing a few things, and I've tried to buy, and will continue to buy, products thru Etsy. I know in some cases I'll be paying a bit more for the products, but I rest in knowing I am helping support another mother who is doing her very best, as well. In the last few months, I've planted the idea of a very frugal Christmas this year..to all my family members. Hopefully these tough times will help us all remember more than ever "The Christ in Christmas"!

Guest's picture
Lisa

Heck yes, I've started shopping. I've already got several people done from what was a great sale at Bath and body works.

I save up points I get for being on consumer panels, mypoints, and blue cross and other sites. If there's an option to get my points turned in amazon credit, I just apply that to my balance at amazon and use the credits on items on people's wish lists.

Guest's picture
Stephanie

I shop year round and never wait for Black Friday etc. If I end up with too much by Christmas, I just save some for next year! I never spend on credit what I couldn't pay off that day.

Guest's picture

I buy gifts year round. as long as the gift is not fitted clothing for a kid, this practice works well. my family also does a lot of crafting for gifts.

Guest's picture
Laurie

My husband has been out of work for 18 months now so Christmas will be a bit tight again this year. So I have been looking for bargains on practical gifts such as sheep skin slippers and electric blankets. We've also found it enjoyable to find gifts that make it fun to stay at home - such as old movies and board games.
Add in some microwave popcorn and hot cocoa and the weekends can be really wonderful.

Guest's picture
Tammy

In the past, I have used credit card points to buy gift cards for Lands End or Toys R Us to then purchased gifts for my kids and relatives. But this year, I started my own business so I can now shop at the Sample Sale of a local gift trade show. I am so excited! My friends and I are going together and I hope the prices are as good as I've heard. I very rarely go shopping for fun anymore so I'm looking forward to the event as much as the sale prices.

Guest's picture
Guest

I save a set amount each month into a "Gift Fund" so I always have $$ to take advantage of a great sale. I know the interests of my usual gift recipients and never buy anything that isn't designated for a specific person. I do the bulk of my shopping at the after-holiday sales each year. I think we all need to be cautious spending $$ in this uncertain economy -- I consider each purchase carefully to be sure it is worth my hard-earned dollars.

Guest's picture
Jennifer P

I am on a tight budget this year and will be really searching all the sales for everything. I don't know if retailers will acknowledge this by having more items on sale this year or not. I have noticed the groceries at our local stores have gone up excessively more than the usual increases. It is hurting a lot of people in this area that are already hurting and out of work still. I can only talk for my area and not the rest of the U.S. But, if other places are in as bad of shape as we are, they will have to start lowering again or see a lot of the sales go to online deals or not at all.

Guest's picture
Guest

when I find something that would be perfect for someone, I get it. I usually never spend more than $50 on a gift and am definitely trying to spend far less this year.
It doesn't matter if I pay for it on a cc or a debit card - it all gets paid at the end of the month anyways.
Also - I keep a spreadsheet with each person's name, the holiday and what gift I've bought them. It's a great way to keep track of things and I never forget what's in my 'gift drawer' or what I've bought them in the past.

Guest's picture
pam munro

Have NEVER gone to "black Fri." sales! NEVER. In my adult life I have started collecting gifts bit by bit at the beginning of September, which has left me several months to defray costs and amass bargains. This year, I am justifying my thriftshop yarn purchases by making EVERYONE scarves!

Guest's picture
p

All signs point towards this year's Black Friday to have some incredible deals, esp on electronics. Stores are desperate to make sales.
Clothes, shoes, cosmetics- unless you're like the editor of Vogue who must dress at the height of fashion, then you can pretty much go shopping for these at any time. I feel like these constantly go on sale, and if you're not picky about brand then you're almost guaranteed to find some good alternative when you shop. It just depends on whether you feel like spending that day. Sales on these items are nearly constant. Just look at Kohls and how every weekend they have their "Biggest Sale Ever!" advertisements.

Guest's picture
Virginia

In years past I bought expensive gifts for friends and family usually late in the year and really didn't think twice about sales or "deals". Then in March 2008 I quit my job to stay home with my two young sons and we rely on a single income from a small business my husband runs - clearly not a financial "rock" these days. Regardless, I wouldn't trade my time with my boys for my previous Executive paycheck for the world - it's been priceless! And although we spend great quality time together doing things like hide-and-seek and "monster get me" which are absolutely free but come with hours of giggles and laugh - we still want our kids, family and friends to have a "good" Christmas. I take the approach of "recycling" old toys, household items and anything that we don't use anymore and then "bank" the money I make from selling those items into a special envelope. When I'm out and about doing errands I look for deals and use my "envelope" money to pay for those items. It is AMAZING the deals you can find (i.e. $13 for a $50 Leapster)! I don't think you can wait but I do think you have to be patient and really know prices or your great deal might not be all that great.

Guest's picture
Kelli

I pretty much Christmas shop the same every year, no matter what the economy is like. I wait until after Black Friday (I just can't deal with getting up early and fighting crowds. Plus, I used to work retail and often was on the employee end of it. I'd rather just stay in bed and sleep off my Thanksgiving indulgences!), and I simply try to stick to a pre-determined budget per person, using all the coupons, deals, etc., that I can to save money. This holiday season will probably be a little less lucrative for retailers than last year, and I'm sure we'll see some stores come up with some pretty big deals to try to lure shoppers in.

Guest's picture
Guest

We use credit cards for everything; the catch is we pay it off FULL every month. We have talked about what would happen if they started charging for our credit- and we have agreed that we would just go to a cash based system. As far as holiday gifts are concerned, we try to give gifts that aren’t things that clutter up our lives. Tickets to exhibits, charity donations, making yummy treats or going out to a favorite restaurant are the ways we choose to recognize the people we love in our lives.

Guest's picture
Lucille

I'm really not seeing any deals this year. Black Friday has become more of a marketing shell game than any real deals to be had. The doorbuster type items either have only 2 per store, none at all or are not quite what they advertised it to be. I have seen plenty of deals turn out to be really shoddy sub standard products. So it just isn't worth getting out of bed for this.

We are on the fence about buying anything at all this year. I am so turned off by the holidays and we really don't have the money to spend this year. If we do get anything it will probably be craft supplies (we all have hobbies) or things we made.

Guest's picture
Christie

I do enjoy shopping early in the morning on Black Friday, sometimes getting up at 3 am to do so. Every year, my husband and I set aside money for the holidays and decide in advance what we'll spend before we go shopping. We don't go all out, usually spending between $25 and $30 a person, not a lot, but enough to find some great gifts that each person will hopefully like. Some of the fun is the challenge of finding gifts that are meaningful, yet can fit in our budget. We realize that for us, going into debt would not be worth the headache and strain. So, we try to find creative ways to have fun without spending a lot of money. The most fun for our family is saving our wrapping paper as we unwrap the gifts, and when everyone is done, we have a "snowball" fight. For us, the time spent together over a nice dinner, a few gifts, and a great family movie are more important.

As far as this year being different? I don't think so for us. We will still shop, still spend about the same amount, and still have a great time. I know that my family is not the norm, but I love that we are thankful for little things, enjoy each other's company, and, like the old book, can "have a great time and not even try".

Guest's picture
Satsuki

I actually avoid the holiday buying rut by shopping for Christmas, Easter, & Birthday gifts year round. I do the same for decorations and wrapping supplies. I think I agree with "the experts," I think the sales and spending this year will be about the same as last year. I wouldn't say our economy has gotten much better or worse. I am going to attempt black friday this year for the first time and will probably set my alarm early on cyber monday- just to get the few gifts I haven't picked up yet. You really don't need to shop on those days to find deals though.

Guest's picture
Laura

I shop earlier each year. I can enjoy my shopping if I am not struggling for ideas at the very end of the year (and then paying too much for something that is merely okay)

Guest's picture
lisa

In the past, we had a huge list of people to buy for and put it all on the CC. It would take a year to pay off....This year, I know that I have scaled my list down to my immediate family, a sister and my doctor. The gifts will be practical but frugal (clothing) and healthy (fruit or restaurant card). I pay with cash. With a major job loss and other surprises, I just can't shop much. DH spends his own money on his immediate family and I have a feeling it will be frugal as well. He uses the CC.