Black Friday abandoned for a Blue Christmas

I’m not sure how anyone else out there is feeling but I can say it’s pretty darn grim at our house. In past years, Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) has been a bonanza for retailers and consumers with deep discounts and super savings.

According to a new survey out, 37-41% of people surveyed said they will shop on Black Friday, but expect their overall purchases or ‘spend’ to be a lot less than in prior years.   How much less?  The average shopper will spend $546 this as compared to $637 last year.

What isn’t in the study is the number of shoppers buying at places other than retailers surveyed and reporting.  There are hidden numbers – such as purchases made on Craigslist and sites like Etsy.  I’ve spent $37 so far for Christmas – on eBay.  I’m trolling Craigslist for certain second-hand items as well.  Sure, I’ll probably spend a little in the traditional stores, but selectively and with a great deal of hesitation. 

For those of you who are hitting the stores, The Wallet has a great article on saving your receipts for potentially more savings if retailers slash prices even further during the holiday shopping season.

Make Your Own Christmas Gifts – Ideas (and humor) Needed!

It isn’t a new idea but making your own Christmas Gifts can be fun, rewarding and a budget saver.  Across the globe, people are taking a good look at finances and renouncing credit cards.  While no one wants to be a scrooge, determining what creative skills you have could go a long way in having something other than cobwebs and dust bunnies under the Christmas Tree this year.

  • If you sew – you have a leg up on the rest of the world. 
  • If you bake or cook – cookies, jams, a pie are always welcome.
  • If you are crafty – hand-decorated frames or ornaments are cheery
  • If you write – tell the story of the family tree for others to treasure
  • If you fix-it – give a gift certificate of your time to fix that annoying light switch or faucet

What handmade gift ideas can you share?

On the somewhat, um, lighter side of things… what kicked this off was an email from a friend that summed up current economic conditions:

My Dear Friend,

Somewhat embarrassing to admit, I’m not getting an annual bonus and
Christmas is tight this year. I will be making bedroom slippers for you all
as gifts. Please let me know your sizes. You’ll most likely agree that it’s
a splendid idea, and should you wish to do the same, I’ve included the
instructions below.

How to make bedroom slippers out of maxi pads:

You need four maxi pads to make a pair.
Two of them get laid out flat, for the foot part.
The other two wrap around the toe area to form the top.
Tape or glue each side of the top pieces to the bottom of the foot part.
Decorate the tops with whatever you desire, silk flowers (this is most
aesthetically appealing), etc.

These slippers are:
* Soft and Hygienic
* Non-slip grip strips on the soles
* Built in deodorant feature keeps feet smelling fresh
* No more bending over to mop up spills
* Disposable and biodegradable
* Environmentally safe
* Three convenient sizes: (1.) Regular, (2.) Light and (3.) Get out the Sand

Christmas Shopping on a Budget

Let’s face it, it’s rough out there.  Thinking of shopping for Christmas makes me queasy at this point. With three small children I can’t escape the throws, but I can be thrifty and wise. 

In August I wrote about Back to School Clothes Shopping on a Budget with some simple tips that apply to Christmas shopping as well:

  1. Take inventory of what you have in the way of clothes and toys.  Remove items that are too worn of that have been outgrown.  Be sure they are clean and set them aside (important for later).  Do this not only for your kid’s closets, but your own as well.  No longer in need of the size 4 power suit?  Set it aside.
  2. Make a list of what’s needed.  Remember, there is a difference between need and want.
  3. Set a budget.  It can be per person or in total (in total typically works best for me).  My budget is being set by what I can offset in selling items from Step 1.
  4. Swear off credit cards  No credit this Christmas – cash is King and Queen.  If you buy online and put on a credit card, immediately transfer cash from your bank account to your credit card for the exact amount.  Don’t wait, just do it.
  5. Make a shopping plan.  Start looking on eBay, Craigslist and local consignment shops.  Shop at stores with layaway plans to help pay over time (rather than on credit).  Place a ‘wanted’ listing on Craigslist (it’s free) to see what you come up with. 

I am in need of gently used size 6 boys clothing. If your son has outgrown his and you were looking for a good home, please let me know. Ideally I’d like a bag of clothes – pants, shorts, shirts, sweaters/pullovers for a fixed price ($x for the whole bag)

How to pay for it…
Remember in step 1 we set some items aside?  List them on Craigslist (free), eBay (small fee) or take them to a local consignment shop.  Consignment shops are doing brisk business in this economic downturn with many people taking items in for cash making the inventory levels higher and more choice for you the thrifty shopper.

More advice?
I’d love to hear from others on how they are managing shopping for the holidays.  Let’s here it in the comments!

Layaway Plans for Christmas plus Kmart Layaway Coupon

Layaway plans are back in fashion.  With credit cards either maxed out, cancelled or simply tucked away, consumers are looking at layaway as a means to having at least a little something under the Christmas tree.

Out of the big stores only Kmart’s layaway service is there for consumers.  Target and Wal-mart want consumers to use their store credit cards meaning a “ho-ho-ho” now will turn into the Grinch stealing 2009 trying to pay it off. 

In fact, Kmart has even gone so far as to hire Kate from the TLC cable show Jon & Kate Plus Eight to be their spokesperson for the service.

How layaway service work?

Kmart Layaway CouponIt’s pretty easy actually.  Since Kmart layaway is the topic today we’ll outline their program.  Select your items as you normally would but instead of regular check-out, go to the layaway counter.  You pay a $5 layaway fee and a deposit – normally 10% of the total and/or a $10 cancellation fee – and you must return every two weeks to pay on the balance.  You have eight weeks to pay the balance in-full at which time you can take your items home.  If you don’t make the payments every 2 weeks or miss paying the balance in-full by the end of 8 weeks, you will get a refund minus the $15 (layaway fee + cancellation fee).

To give a little encouragement, Kmart is offering a $5 coupon you can print here (requires Adobe reader to display and print the PDF) valid in-store October 24 – November 30, 2008.