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How to save ahead of holiday shopping season

It's estimated that this holiday season, people expect to spend the same amount of money but come home with less gifts due to inflation.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Pain at the pump, sticker shock at the grocery store and even the dollar store isn't a dollar anymore! Across the board, people are feeling the squeeze.

That's why 13 ON YOUR SIDE is looking at the issues causing costs to climb and what can be done about it. 

It's estimated that this holiday season, people expect to spend the same amount of money, but come home with less gifts because of inflation. 

"For the middle income consumer, they're feeling it and really, people earning $100,000 [a year] are feeling it too," Marie Driscoll, managing director of luxury and retail with Coresight Research, says. 

Due to inflation, goods and services cost about eight percent more than last year. 

With Black Friday just days away, Driscoll says the big promotions that may have been lacking in the last few years are back. 

"Last year, we didn't have a whole lot of promotional pricing because the supply chain was so erratic that you didn't a lot of product didn't get there," she says. "Ergo, this year, a lot of retailers are entering with high-profit [and] high inventory levels and the anticipation that it's going to be a promotional environment which we didn't have last year."

If you're looking for an extra deal, don't be shy about shopping clearance and vintage. Some stores even offer price matching if you find something for a better deal elsewhere. 

Driscoll says the deals aren't just specific to the weekend after Thanksgiving. 

"There will be more deals that come that make themselves available," she says. 

"You can find almost everything on your holiday wish list at a locally-owned business," Victoria Munro with People First Economy says. 

She says when shopping at small businesses in town, you can find that unique and higher quality gift. People First Economy wants to help people curate intentional experiences and gatherings this holiday season through their holiday guide.

"Bigger does not always mean better, and you have an opportunity to find one really amazing, impactful gift as opposed to gathering a few less impactful gifts," Munro says. 

It's all about intentionality, finding the space on your wish list to buy local. 

"Something as simple as buying your holiday dessert items from a local grocer, or picking up a bouquet of flowers from a local florist, or even a coloring book and pack of crayons from a local bookstore," Munro says. "It's all about making the small changes that will have a big impact."

Some stores and restaurants do offer things like gift card incentives, so you can get more for your money. That, Munro says, benefits the community too. 

"For every dollar spent at a locally-owned business, 68 cents stay within our local economy and go right back into the pockets of our local businesses and neighbors and friends," she says. "Money spent at a non-local business, only 43 of those cents per every dollar will stay within the local community. And over time, it makes a huge, huge difference."

Even if you like to do all of your shopping in one place, like the mall, there's options to invest in local businesses there, too. 

"I've noticed a trend in some of our malls that there's some locally-owned stores there as well," Experience GR Senior Vice President Janet Korn says. 

Experience GR offers an extensive list online of places to shop throughout our area. A study shows shopping is a top activity for overnight (25%) visitors and day (27%) visitors to Kent County with both percentages exceeding the national norm, 22% overnight and 19% day respectfully.

When it comes to how you're checking out online, Money Tips Credit Industry Analyst Nathan Grant says stick to a budget to avoid racking up big balances and high interest payments on your credit cards. 

"Avoid using credit for something that you just know, you can't pay off right away, you shouldn't be using your credit card as if it's extra money," he says. "You should just be looking at as a different way to pay." 

There's a newer kind of lay-away too, with buy now, pay later programs widely available like After Pay, Zip and Sezzle. 

"That might be a good option if you're looking to break up a larger purchase, but it's still very new. So, we don't know a lot about what long-term negative effects could be when it comes to even things like reporting it to your credit," Grant says. "A lot of the credit bureaus aren't reporting that yet." 

Come January, if you need extra help paying your cards off, there's always fixed interest cards to put all your balances on, as well as private loans that have lower rates than credit cards. 

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