Thursday, September 3, 2015

How not to break the bank when holiday shopping

It happens at least twice a year here in Israel: long lines at the supermarkets, shopping carts overflowing with goods, huge grocery bills...yep, the holiday season is about to descend upon us. The run-up to the High Holy days and Pesach tend to be the times when our shopping bills are the highest. We splurge on special foods, cook up huge amounts and have a larger variety of dishes at festive meals than we would on a regular Shabbat meal - after all, there are culinary skills to display and guests to impress! Not to mention that Son #1 needs some new white shirts and Daughter #3 needs a new dress...

Even though holiday shopping will almost inevitably make a larger dent than usual in your bank account, there are still tactics you can use to mitigate the damage, and possibly even save some money over the rest of the year: 
  • Plan your menus ahead of time and shop according to a list. Yes, I know you frugal, savvy folks do this all year round, but it's doubly important when you're buying and cooking in large quantities. Look up your recipes, assess how much of each ingredient you really need, make up a list with quantities and shop accordingly. Don't forget your coupons where applicable!
  • Take note of pre-holiday sales and be an opportunist if the deal is really good. On the other hand, if a specific (preferably non-perishable) staple you use all year round is especially discounted, take that into account and budget for stocking up. For example, I am so going to get the discounted olive oil at Superpharm (NIS 19.90 per 750ml), because I know I'll be using it. 
  • Compare store flyers and don't hesitate to shop at several different stores. You don't have to buy everything at once, and there is no *one* store which has all the cheapest groceries, so consider making several shopping trips at different stores over a couple of weeks. You can plan ahead by checking up store flyers on Israflyer; those of you with smartphone can check your relevant apps. Just keep a running tally of your total spendings so you won't run over budget - as you'll probably be spending only a fraction of your usual shopping jaunt at each individual store.
  • Use your Shai LaChag. If your employer was generous enough to give you vouchers (Tavim) or you have some on hand from filling out paid online surveys, now's the time to haul them out and use them for food and/or clothing purchases. Your bank balance will thank you. 
  • Take adavantage of end-of-season clothing sales. We're lucky here in Israel that we can wear summer clothes through most, if not all of the Chagim. So if you're in need of new clothes for you or your children and there's nothing that is appropriate at your local secondhand shops (yes, you should check those out if you can, especially for babies and small children), late August and early September can be a great time to get summer clothing (for next summer as well). If you can take advantage of  these sales for holiday clothing, go for it. 
  • Prefer shopping for clothing and gifts at stores where you're a member. People often tend so spend more on gifts for others than they do for themselves, so if you're a guest this year at someone else's house, consider buying them a nice (but member-discounted) present at a store where you hold a membership card. And if they allow double discounts (holiday+member discounts), all the better for your pocketbook, but you'll still be bringing a perfectly respectable gift. 
Here's hoping your holiday shopping - and of course the holidays themselves - are full of material and spiritual satisfaction! 



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