How can you save money and reduce stress this holiday season? Family Horizons Credit Union has eight awesome shopping tips to help.

While most of us start out the holiday season with anticipation and awe, it’s easy to let the stress of shopping and spending money darken the mood. Suddenly your gift list is double the size, and your budget is taking a hard hit from all the extras – like impromptu parties, stocking stuffers and unexpected gift exchanges.

Don’t worry, the Family Horizons Credit Union team has your back. With some pre-planning and thoughtful spending habits, you can enjoy all those shopping experiences in your future without guilt or worry. Take a look at our top tips for smart holiday spending.

Enroll in Christmas Club Savings
If you haven’t already, take advantage of our popular Christmas Club Savings program. Once you have an account, you can put money aside on a regular basis. With continued deposits and interest rates, your money will grow all year long. It’ll be sitting there waiting for you when it’s time to go shopping. Each year you can withdraw your savings prior to the holiday season without penalty. And remember, we’ll be accepting new Christmas Club enrollments beginning in January 2018.

Consider Layaway Programs
While layaway plans have fluctuated in popularity over the decades, they’re back and going strong at many of your favorite stores. How do they work? The simple version is that you find an item you want in a store (or sometimes online), and then you pay a fee and/or a percentage of the price to put it on hold. You can then pay it off, interest free, within a designated time – usually between eight and 12 weeks. And just like that, the item is yours.

Some of the stores offering layaway plans this year include:
• Burlington Coat Factory/Baby Depot
• Marshalls
• T.J. Maxx
• Toys R Us/Babies R Us
• GameStop
• Kmart
• Sears
• Walmart

Make a Shopping List
Do you ever buy sale items along the way without knowing for sure who you’ll give them to? Or you lose track of what you’ve bought, and end up with too much for someone and not enough for another? Start with a thorough list of everyone you need to shop for. Don’t forget teachers, bosses, work gift exchanges and the mail carrier.  Once you’ve made your list, keep it handy so you can refer to it often. Make multiple copies or save it on your cell phone where you can reference it and check items off on a regular basis.

Evaluate Your List
Is your shopping list out of control? Has your family grown over the years and you’re buying gifts for in-laws, nieces, nephews, and cousins, even though it adds extra stress and financial burden? Chances are, if you’re feeling that way, someone else in your family is too. Consider broaching the topic with a sibling or parent, and propose a cost-cutting solution. For example, make it standard that once a niece or nephew turns 18, gifts are no longer expected. Or perhaps all the adults could draw names, so that each participant buys only one gift (but make sure you designate a specific price range).

Work Within a Budget
Once you know the number of gifts you’re talking about, figure out exactly how much money you should spend. Or estimate an amount for each gift, and see where that takes you. Don’t forget to factor in all those extras, like wrapping paper, holiday cards and postage. Oh, and then there’s new decorations, donations to community organizations, and parties or dinners with friends. Those little extras can throw your entire budget off track in no time.

Do Your Research
Many retailers aren’t waiting until Black Friday to offer big discounts. Start comparing prices now – online or in weekly ads – and keep track of the lowest prices you can find. That way you’ll recognize a good deal when you see it. Take advantage of free shipping offers, and track shopping trends in case a popular item on your list is at risk of being sold out.

Don’t Procrastinate
Okay, so we all know someone who manages to finish their shopping every year before most of us have even started, and it can be a little annoying. But hey, there’s something to be said for getting it done. It’s much easier to make smart choices with your money when you’re not waiting until the last minute to shop. Procrastinating only promotes overspending and buyer’s remorse, and before you know it your budget is blown. So, get a head start if you can – slow and steady shopping wins the race.

Be Creative
With so many do-it-yourself ideas and tutorials online, the possibilities of homemade gifts are endless. From hand-painted ornaments or wine glasses, to decorated frames and detailed scrapbooks, there are plenty of cost-friendly options out there sure to please all ages and tastes. And the bonus? Personalized and heart-felt gifts will be treasured for years to come.