Deal Finder: Get ready for holidays with layaway, bargains, seasonal jobs

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By LaTina Emerson, The Shopper Deal Finder

The holiday season might seem far away, but the months are passing by quickly and it will soon be time for delicious feasts, decorations, gifts and festivities with loved ones.

This year has been financially challenging for many families, so some parents might need to start planning ahead in order to afford holiday gifts and celebrations for their children. Taking advantage of layaway, finding deals and getting a seasonal job are a few ways to make ends meet during the holiday season.

Take Advantage of Layaway

Layaway is a great option that allows parents to get the items they want before they’re sold out. This service can also help save money in the long run. Shoppers make payments until their layaway bill is paid in full, which prevents them from accruing interest charges, as they would with credit cards.

Walmart is offering layaway through Dec. 14. To qualify for layaway, individual items must be $10 or more, and the minimum basket amount must be $50. Customers are required to make a down payment of $10 or 10 percent, whichever is greater.

Items eligible for layaway include media, gaming, cameras and supplies, toys, sporting goods, automotive, cooking and dining, home décor, fabrics and craft, bedding, wireless and jewelry, with some restrictions.

Layaways are opened and picked up at the store’s designated layaway counter, but payments can be made at any register. Final payment and pick up must be made on or before the close of business on Dec. 14. Orders not claimed by Dec. 14 will be canceled, and any payments will be refunded.

For more information about Walmart’s layaway program, visit https://www.walmart.com/cp/Layaway/1088466?&search_redirect=true&redirectQuery=layaway.

Search for Deals

It’s never too early to search for savings on food, toys, clothes and other holiday gift items. Be on the lookout for sales, store coupons and discount codes.

For holiday meals, plan your menu now and make a list of the ingredients that you will need to prepare your entrees, side dishes, desserts and more. Nonperishable goods can be purchased weeks ahead of time, so review weekly sales ads and look for digital or printed coupons at grocery and department stores to get the best prices on food items.

Many retail stores are already offering great sales on clothes, shoes, jewelry, home items and other merchandise. To take advantage of these early bargains, establish your holiday shopping budget, make a list of the loved ones you’d like to shop for and decide what you’d like to buy for each person.

Remember that it’s the thought that counts. Don’t go into debt buying holiday gifts. If your family needs to reduce its holiday spending this year, consider drawing names so that each adult only buys a gift for one person. Rather than buying gifts from the store, make something the recipient would cherish, such as a picture album or homemade cake, or offer free services, such as doing yard work, washing their car or baby-sitting their children.

Lastly, be practical with your gift selections. Give the person something they actually need. Because of the need for virtual learning and working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, office furniture and Internet service are terrific gift options. Office furniture has been flying off the shelves this year, so don’t wait until the last minute to find it. Also, shop around for deals on Internet service.

Make Extra Cash

If you need extra money to buy gifts or food this holiday season, or to simply get ahead in your finances, look for a seasonal job. Retail stores and shipping businesses usually need extra workers to meet the holiday demand. Also, use your talents to make some extra cash. If you’re a great cook, let people know that you’re taking orders for holiday desserts and dishes. If you have a flair for decorating, ask if anyone would like to have their home decorated for the holidays.

Seek Help

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for many household incomes, and some parents might be forced to choose between paying for necessities, such as rent, utilities and food, and buying holiday gifts for their children.

Some non-profit organizations, such as churches and The Salvation Army, offer holiday assistance to families in need. Through the Angel Tree Program, The Salvation Army provides one million children with Christmas gifts of new clothes and toys. Anonymous donors adopt “angels” and buy gifts based on information that is provided, and people also generously donate gift items in bulk. This year, The Salvation Army expects that an additional 1.6 million people will seek help for the Christmas season.

To learn more about the Angel Tree Program at The Salvation Army Newnan, call 770-251-8181 or visit https://salvationarmygeorgia.org/newnan/.

To donate to the Angel Tree Program or help The Salvation Army provide grocery, bill pay or homeless shelter assistance to those in need, visit https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/brighten-the-holidays/.

Starting Oct. 1, Coweta families can sign up for Christmas in Coweta, an annual program led by Bridging the Gap that purchases Christmas gifts for children in Coweta County whose parents can’t afford to buy them. Parents should sign up as soon as possible at either www.christmasincoweta.org or www.christmasincoweta.com. Slots are expected to fill quickly. Families will be asked to provide their children’s clothing and shoe sizes and a brief wish list, as well as information to verify each child’s identity. For assistance or to sponsor a child, call 770-683-9110.

Save on Holiday Travel

Many people might opt to stay close to home this year, rather than travel out of town to visit relatives. However, if you’re still eager to travel, experts are unsure whether airline and hotel prices will increase dramatically during the holiday season.

Nerdwallet.com predicts that airfare prices will increase, but not much, while hotel lodging in small and medium-sized cities could be costly. The personal finance website recommends that travelers who plan to visit a small town and stay in a hotel should book the room well in advance and make sure they can cancel it for free, in case their travel plans change.

Also, membership programs, such as AAA and AARP, offer discounts on hotels, rental cars, restaurants and more, so do your research to take advantage of these savings.

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