Set of sale and discount paper labels with red bows and ribbons

Top 10 Holiday Shopping Mistakes to Avoid

It’s still touted as the biggest holiday shopping day of the year. Black Friday—when retailers slash everything to unheard-of rock bottom prices. When customers camp out in store parking lots make sure they bag a 65-inch TV for $99.

crowded fighting over TVs on Black Friday

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Black Friday—the day shoppers boast of getting all of their Christmas shopping done in one big, glorious fell swoop!

In case you’ve been living on another planet (lucky you!), things have changed. This year, holiday shopping is moving from a mall near you into cyberspace. And from the looks of my inbox, Black Friday did not wait for the day after Thanksgiving. Lots of merchants began rolling out their “best” Black Friday Spectaculars weeks ago.

Please join me in stepping back to take a deep breath.

The ways that we respond to all of the hype this Holiday Season—especially during this coming week—could make or break it for us for years to come.

Look, I know how easily I could justify buying now and paying (and paying and paying) for it later. Because I think we’re a lot alike, I’ll bet you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Today, I’m committing to keeping my head on straight, acknowledging what I know to be true, and doing everything in my power to avoid the big ten shopping mistakes that could so easily land me in a big pile of credit-card debt and terrible regret.

Are you with me?

Mistake 1: Not having a spending plan

Know how much you have to spend, and how you will spend it. Write it down. Then keep track of every penny. Ponder before you load up your shopping cart impulsively by referring to your spending plan. Search, read reviews, think hard before you pull the spending trigger.

Mistake 2: Not holiday shopping with cash

Yes, you can shop online with cash. It takes a bit more planning and preparation, but you can do this. You can shop with cash at Amazon, Kohl’s, Target, and so many other online sites as well.

It’s a 2-step process: Take your cash to a store like Walgreens, big supermarkets, or drug stores. Purchase Gift Cards for the amount of cash you have for the sites you plan to shop.

You can buy Gift Cards for Target, Amazon, Walmart, Apple, Best Buy, Bed Bath, and Beyond—I could go on and on. Nearly all Gift Cards say right on them that they are good for in-store and online purchases. But don’t take my word for that—read the card before you buy it to make sure.

Caution: Bank-issued Gift Cards (VISA Gift Cards, Mastercard Gift Cards, etc.) are typically associated with activation fees, dormancy fees, non-use fees, and service fees. Avoid them!

Mistake 3: Not seeing through the marketing hype

Oh, the slogans and promises we’re hearing and seeing already. Tune your eyes and ears to spot the most ridiculous. My “favorite?” The more you spend, the more you’ll save! I heard that at least 12 times in one day last week.

Here’s the truth: The more you spend, the more you’ll spend! There are no savings involved unless you stop at the bank to deposit all that money you saved didn’t spend! Do you get that? Don’t let such blatant lies coerce or entice you to go outside the plan you have created.

Mistake 4: Spending more to get free shipping

We’ve all done it and soon regretted: Placing two well-thought-out items in the shopping cart, only to realize we need to hit the $99 mark to get free shipping! Then packing the cart foolishly with a bunch of other stuff just to hit the mark. Think about it: Spend, say, $37 to save a $5 shipping charge. Doesn’t make sense, does it!

Mistake 5: Buying intending to return

Can’t decide on the right size or color? Want to grab that sale before it disappears? Both are excuses I’ve used in the past for overbuying like that top in 2 sizes because I’m not quite sure—fully intending to return everything I don’t want. I’ll get the refund that zeros out the purchase and everything will be just dandy, I say. Yeah, right. It’s not that easy to return things (although I must say Amazon comes as close to perfect as possible).

Plans to return can so easily go awry, so don’t make the mistake in the first place. Don’t buy with definite plans to return.

Mistake 6: Not making returns

Sometimes things do not show up as we intended they should. Maybe it doesn’t fit, or something is broken. Or it just isn’t what you thought it would be. You’ll be making a big mistake if you do not return it immediately. Follow the merchant’s guidelines and then watch to make sure you get that refund or credit.

Mistake 7: Not checking the price

You think you’ve found a great deal—you’re getting a discount and everything! But before you check out, check around. Search that product. Look high and low on the search results. You might be happily surprised by what you find.

Mistake 8: Not shopping anonymously

You may know that many online shopping sites show you prices and selections based on your shopping location, the time of day, shopping history, and so forth. When you shop anonymously, that site thinks you are a visitor—a potential customer. You can be sure they’ll show you their best deals, their best discounts in an effort to convert you into a paying customer.

Use your browser’s private mode to hide your location and history from that site. Or use a search engine like to do anonymous searches.

Mistake 9: Shopping sleepy or hungry

I make really dumb mistakes when I’m tired and or hungry. How about you? We need clear minds when holiday shopping in cyberspace.

Mistake 10: Leaving money on the table

Many (many!) holiday shopping sites participate in cashback programs. But they don’t say this on their sites, nor do they remind you at check out. The cashback site I use and rely on is Rakuten. Here’s how that works:  Join Rakuten. Once a member (it’s free), opt to have the Rakuten extension on your browser. Now, when you visit a Rakuten member site, you’ll get a notice at the top of your screen to activate cash back should you make a purchase. Of course, if you do not want the extension, make sure you sign in at the Rakuten site first, then proceed to Kohl’s or Target, etc.

Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn from qualifying purchases, at no cost to you.


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