We all know that the holiday season can be an expensive time of year… but does it have to be that expensive? There are certain items that we all have a good handle on, like how much a turkey costs, or how expensive a sweater is. However, there is more to holiday spending than just eyeballing a figure.

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It turns out that our holiday habits are more complex than we may think if we take a look at our personal financial mantras and beliefs.

Chase currently conducted their Chase Blueprint-AOL Holiday Money Mantra Survey, and found that:

  • Ninety percent of Americans believe “it’s important to treat yourself” during the holiday season.
  • Those who “totally agree it’s important to treat yourself,” are more likely to be frequently happy than individuals who don’t believe in gifting themselves.
  • That same group will go on to spend $935 on average on holiday gifts this year, as opposed to those who only “somewhat” agree with this idea, who will spend $755.

Additionally, without savvy shopping techniques, you may find yourself ripped off, having paid more for an item than the best retail price. With all that spending, and the majority of Americans believing in self-gifting (to a certain extent), how can we make sure we are spending less while at the same time getting good value?

Comparison shop

In order to avoid being ripped off, comparison shopping is key. By doing your research and shopping around, you’ll be able to find the best price for that perfect gift. There are many tools at your disposal when it comes to comparison shopping, including three of the following below.

RedLaser is an amazing free app that turns you phone’s camera into a barcode scanner that can read any item so you can see all the prices from nearby stores and online competitors for that product, and get the greatest deal.

The Internet is a great resource, with tons of sites that make comparison shopping easy, such as Amazon. You can type in a product and get various prices from participating merchants, and occasionally free shipping.

Another site is Polyvore, which allows you to be more general with your query and type in an item you’d like to see comparisons for, such as “blue sweater.” The site pulls up listings from all over the web, as well as lets you pick a price range.

Shop smart

We recently wrote an article with ten ways you can shop smart and save this holiday season! Once you find a site to purchase your desired product from, see if there are any cash back shopping portals that lists this site. You can then earn a certain percentage of the money you spend on your purchase. Use this tool to sift through all the cash back sites to see which one will offer you the most. Also, don’t count out Black Friday deals! Stay with us as we publish our Black Friday master list of deals next week.

Don’t give in to pressure

Don’t give into pressure from sales associates or friends. To keep from overspending, you can opt to shop with cash. Also, if you get invited to a holiday party, buy a nice box of chocolates or an affordable bottle of wine. Don’t feel pressured to bring a fancy gift. If you run out of ideas, here are some free, cheap, and sentimental gifts to look into when gifting a friend.

If you’re hosting your own holiday party, you can print free invitations or buy cheap prints from Etsy that will look far more expensive than they actually are. Invite loved ones to each bring a dish or beverage to share, and serve your guests buffet/pot luck-style. You can also use specific credit cards to get the most rewards back on all the cash you’re dropping this season.

Pay attention to return policies

Return policies can really get you if you’re not aware of them at the register! Some stores only give store credit instead of a refund for a returned item, or will give you store credit that is only valid at the store you purchased from. Some policies only give 14 days to make a return, as opposed to the standard 30.

Always research return and exchange policies when holiday shopping so you don’t get stuck with a bad purchase, because all your gifts have the potential to need exchanging or returning, so you want to make sure that after the holidays, your loved ones have a window of time in which they can make their returns. Additionally, some stores give an even longer window of time for returns specifically during the holiday season.

Read up on fees for your vacation

So many people go on vacation during the holidays, or fly home to be with their families. Travel expenses are expensive at this time of the year, and if you’re looking to lower your cost, here are methods to try.

According to Skyscanner, a European travel booking site, the three biggest offenses on holiday rip-offs are the cost of access to Internet, tours and excursions, and the cost of withdrawing cash abroad.

For ways to avoid the cost of overseas ATM withdrawals, compare foreign ATM fees and find out how to avoid them. Most fees range around $5, but we found a few $2.50 fees, and one free ATM use.

Forego expensive restaurants while shopping

It can be expensive to feed your family while out on a Black Friday excursion. With all the crowds, pushy people, and constant walking, everyone needs a food break. Instead of stopping at the food court or a mall restaurant, consider packing meals. Though the kids may groan, you can still give them tasty treats, just pre-packaged. When packing, include a variety of items like snacks, beverages, substantial meals, and high-energy snacks. Some foods that give a boost of energy are almonds, whole grains, leafy greens, carbohydrates, fruit, and high protein foods.

By taking the proper precautions, you’ll be able to lessen your spending and avoid being ripped off this holiday.

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