Question: You always write about saving money, so I have an idea I want to run by you. I work in a large department store and won’t get to go home for the holidays until this weekend. I decided to buy all my family’s Christmas presents this Friday before flying home on Saturday.
Is that tacky? Is there any way they can find out? Maybe by scanning the bar codes on the side of the box? I just figured I might be able to save a lot of money this way, but now I’m getting nervous about the decision. Do you think shopping after Christmas is a good idea?
— Rebecca in Portland, Oregon
Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…
I don’t know if it’s a good idea, Rebecca, but I can tell you this: You won’t be alone.
A new study from American Express shows 64 percent of holiday shoppers will hit the stores this Friday. They’ll spend an average of $192, up from $188 last year.
Most of them will be shopping for themselves. They’ll use gift cards they were given on Christmas (26 percent) or just use their own money (34 percent) to score some deals.
As for those bar codes, they tell you all sorts of things about a product, but not when and where they were purchased. That information resides with the retailers when you paid for the items. So no worries there.
One problem you might face, Rebecca, is a limited selection on some items. It’s too late for this year, since you have no choice but shop on Friday or fly home Saturday empty-handed, but I might recommend an alternate plan for next year: Do twice the shopping.
In that American Express survey, 21 percent of shoppers will do next year’s gift-buying on Friday. That requires two things: some extra cash on hand to buy early and precise knowledge of your intended audience’s gift preferences.
That said, the day after Christmas is indeed a discount paradise. Most of those deals won’t be formally announced until Christmas Day, because retailers don’t want to distract last-minute shoppers. However, here’s how those deals looked last year according to the International Business Times: 60 to 70 percent off men’s clothing, 15 percent off women’s clothing, and up to 50 percent off electronics.
Good luck on Friday, Rebecca. You didn’t say if you’re flying or driving home, but if it’s the former, I hope you find many great gifts that fit into carry-on luggage — or some of your savings will be eaten up by baggage fees!
Have a debt question?
Email your question to email@example.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.