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A reader who couldn't get home for Christmas is buying her family's presents the day after.

2 minute read

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!

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for Debt.com. I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only Debt.com, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched Debt.com. I’m glad you’re here.

Published by Debt.com, LLC