Get What You Want for Christmas: Buy It Yourself

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Fewer of us plan to “self-gift” this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. Of the 6,415 U.S. consumers surveyed by the NRF, only 57 percent will buy themselves somethin’ pretty, compared with 59 percent in 2012.

Still, that’s quite a few folks assured of getting at least one gift they really, really like.

Nothing wrong with wanting to treat yourself, especially given some of the prices on Gray Thursday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and every other sale from now until Dec. 24. Not that every “sale” price is a good one; in fact, some aren’t really good deals at all.

But if you’ve been tracking prices, especially for bigger-ticket items like technology and appliances, then I can think of only one reason not to self-gift.

You already know what I’m about to say: If you can’t afford it, then it isn’t a good deal.

Sure, it looks great on you. Yes, you’ve wanted to read/listen to/cook with that particular thing for what seems like forever. But if it’s not in your budget, just say “no.” Or, rather, just say “not now.”

Giving in to impulse?

That’s not to say that some things aren’t worth charging. For example, suppose your athletic shoes’ soles are in need of salvation. Whether you use them for sport or for walking to work, you’re courting an injury in worn-out footwear, so go ahead and buy replacements. Ella Morton of the Women & Co. blog suggests trying shoes on at the end of a shopping trip: “Your feet swell during the day, so you’ll be less likely to buy a size that will ultimately feel too small.”

Suppose you’re a freelancer whose laptop is just not keeping pace with increased job demands. It’s a business expense, even though you’ll have to wait a few months to claim it, and you might even find the model you want on sale during the holidays. Worth buying? Probably – but only if you do your homework.

Before you give yourself license to spend, though, be honest: If you don’t need it and/or can’t afford it, can you truly justify the purchase? In a post on the Credit Sesame blog, Ashley Tate suggests that self-gifting is “really just the same as impulse shopping.”

If you’ve got the bucks and you think you want it, well, it’s your money. But think for a few minutes about other things those funds could support: the down payment on a new home, your retirement fund, college savings for your kids, a really swell vacation someplace warm during a late-January gale.

Keeping costs down

A price comparison website like PriceGrabber.com or FindersCheapers can give you a reality check by showing you whether that not-to-be-missed price can be beaten elsewhere. Sites like Coupon Sherpa, RetailMeNot and Savings.com can clue you in to unadvertised specials, clearance prices and, of course, online coupons (including free shipping).

A few other money-saving tips:

  • Cash in points for free gift cards. I’m paying for most of my holiday shopping (for other people) with scrip from three rewards credit cards, MyPoints and Swagbucks. But I could just as easily have bought things for myself.
  • Use gift cards others give you. One of the good things about being an adult is that no one keeps you from opening your gifts before Dec. 25. So if Grandma or your BFF sends you a card rather than a package for the holiday, it’s kosher to open it up and see if there’s some store scrip inside.
  • Use discounted gift cards. Don’t have any free rewards cards or cards-as-gifts? Buy them on the secondary market for an additional layer of savings. (For details, see “Want to Save Money Every Time You Shop? Pay With a Discounted Gift Card.”)

Of course, hitting the post-holiday sales with those gift cards would give you extra bang for the buck on certain items, especially apparel. Ain’t no self-gifting like winter clearance self-gifting.

Do you self-gift? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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