Statistics teach us there is great wisdom in group averages. Large groups of respondents contain the collective knowledge of several individuals. More often than not, averaging the responses of a population will lead you to a correct answer. If the same can be true of frugal Christmas shopping, then it's worth taking a look at the most popular ways to save on holiday shopping.
The Nation Retail Federation (NRF) recently completed its annual survey on Christmas consumer expectations. Within the survey, NRF asked respondents if they would make changes in shopping behavior given economic difficulties and, if so, how they planned on cutting back on their spending. The results tell us what saving methods are most popular and why:
1st Place: Shopping for Sales. When the going gets tough, the tough spend more time shopping. By far, the most popular method of saving this season is sale shopping. Christmas invokes titles like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Is it any wonder why Americans gravitate toward Christmas sales? All you need to do is stay up to date on sale announcements and maintain the discipline to wait for the best deal.
One caveat to making sale shopping work in your favor: Those with a head start snag the best deals. Luckily, roughly 66 percent of Christmas shoppers start their bargain hunting before December, with half starting before November. It's not too late to join the in-crowd and save while shopping.
Percentage of frugal shoppers shopping for sales: 46.4 percent
2nd Place: Coupons. Technology has revolutionized couponing in only a matter of years. Once upon a time, my Mother used to weed out the Sunday paper's insert and spend an hour clipping coupons.
These days, you can walk into a store, find what you want to buy, and find coupons on your smart phone. The best part is you don't even need to print most of them. Just pull up the image on your phone and give to the cashier to scan. The process is nearly instantaneous and results in zero paper cuts.
It's no wonder couponing comes in as the second most popular way to save at Christmas time. Get your pointer finger ready to save.
Percentage of frugal shoppers using coupons: 35.9 percent
3rd Place: Comparing Prices Online. It can take hours to traverse numerous stores and compare prices to arrive at the best deal. Going door to door means spending time and money traveling. Even if you are able to browse several retailers, there is still a good chance you'll miss the best price.
The solution is simple. Many of the largest retailers now advertise their prices online. In a matter of moments, you can compare a half-dozen websites. Online shopping and price comparison makes the list at number three of the most popular ways to save on Christmas spending.
Percentage of frugal shoppers comparing online prices: 31.4 percent
4th Place: Buying More Practical Gifts If you want to ensure that your gift is the most appreciated, odds are you'll adopt a significantly bigger budget. It's common to associate larger budgets with more-affectionate gifts. While a big budget certainly widens the field of potential gifts, it doesn't guarantee satisfaction.
I know most people on my Christmas list would appreciate a thoughtful gift more than the amount on the price tag. This explains why purchasing more practical gifts also ranks high on the Christmas shopping popularity list. By gifting practically, you can replace big-ticket gifts with more reasonably priced items, while still spreading happiness to your loved ones.
The only thing to keep in mind is that a more-thoughtful gift requires more effort than a pricey one. Start drawing up your gift list early enough to deliver by Christmas.
Percentage of frugal shoppers buying more practical gifts: 27.2 percent
Final Thoughts. You'll notice the most popular ways to save don't really involve cutting so much as smarter shopping. Retailers are looking to move large volumes of sales for the holiday, and you can use this to your advantage. If you can capitalize on the deals that are out there, you'll greatly reduce your budget while buying the same gifts.
JP is the author of the money blog My Family Finances, a site dedicated to helping families make wise financial decisions. He is also an MBA and works in corporate finance.
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