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Americans end up spending a great deal of money on gifts each holiday season. Last year, they spent an estimated $1.1 trillion on gifts overall. In fact, the average consumer spent nearly $1,600 on holiday gifts in 2018. The large cash outlays during this time of year are no doubt a key reason why many people are feeling enormous stress during the holiday season. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. You can take care of everyone on your holiday gift list without breaking the bank, and keep your stress levels low as well. Here are 20 great tips to save money while holiday gift shopping.
1. Make a Plan, and a List
Don’t just walk into a mall or store, or shop online, without a deliberate plan. Spontaneous shopping leads to overspending and wastes time. Instead, put in a little planning time upfront. Make a list of everyone you need to buy a gift for and a budget of how much you want to spend on gifts overall this year. Then, make a tentative plan for what you plan to buy each person on your list. A little thought now will save you money and time later, when you actually start shopping for everyone.
2. Start Putting Money Away for the Holidays NOW
The holidays are right around the corner. One way you can alleviate stress is by being as prepared for them financially as possible. Start saving for the holidays now! Doing so can provide you a financial cushion, so the outlays you make on gifts as well as other holiday expenses, such as travel, don’t put you in a financial bind. Additionally, you should plan to keep saving after the holidays are over to offset how much your gift buying, travel, and other expenses set you back at the end of the year.
3. Space out Your Shopping
There’s no hard and fast rule that you have to do all your holiday shopping between the end of November and mid-December. Instead, you should consider keeping an eye out for gifts, especially heavily discounted gifts, year-round. Buying gifts throughout the year can reduce the stress you’d otherwise feel throughout the holiday season, since you won’t have to compete with everyone else trying to buy gifts in crowded stores at the last minute. You may end up realizing incredible savings by buying your holiday gifts in the off-season as well.
4. Find Bargains Any Way You Can
When it comes to holiday gift shopping, you should definitely put the internet, your laptop, and all your mobile devices to work for you, as they can really help you to save money. For example, apps such as Amazon allow you to monitor certain deals over the course of the holiday season to see when the best time to buy is. You’ll be able to make your list and keep an eye on prices simultaneously. Additionally, third-party websites such as CamelCamelCamel allow you to check historical price fluctuations on items to get an idea as to how low the price can go. That way, when Amazon tells you that your deal is ready, you can check to see if buying now really is the best option. Additionally, by shopping through a rebate site such as Ebates, you can qualify for a rebate of a percentage of each purchase you make. All you have to do is click through the rebate site over to one of its affiliated retailers and shop as normal.
5. Ask for a Price Match from Your Local Retailer
One way to save money and time buying holiday gifts for everyone is to stop driving around so much. Instead, you should try to see if nearby retailers will give you price matches on items that are for sale elsewhere. For example, if you find an item you want for an extra-low price in an ad for a store that’s 45 minutes away, you could bring that ad to a competitor that’s closer to you and ask the store to match the price. Many stores will price match competitors just to get your business, and you’ll save twice: once on your purchase and once on gas.
6. Shop Later in the Evening
You can save real money if you end up shopping later in the evening just prior to a sale’s happening. Stores often program their sales and discount items late in the evening prior to the next day’s sale, so you can often get a jump on other shoppers and avoid crowds if you shop the night prior to the big sale. Talk to a cashier or sales assistant when you enter the store on the eve of a sale and chances are strong that you can save some serious money on gifts this holiday season.
7. Use a Cash Back Credit Card
While you should avoid spending on credit if you can, some credit card companies do offer some nice incentives if you need to charge your holiday purchases. Check with your credit card company and see if you get any extra cash rewards for shopping with certain retailers. The cash back rewards can offset your gift expenses, and when you’re trying to save during the holidays, every little bit counts!
8. Take Advantage of Price Adjustments after the Sale
While most stores don’t advertise this fact much, many will actually refund you the difference if the item that you bought goes on sale within a certain period. Therefore, if you paid $99.99 for that blender and it goes on sale the next day for $69.99, you might be able to get $30 back. Just make sure you keep your receipts and check with your retailer to see if it’s willing to adjust your price retroactively.
9. Avoid Store Credit Cards if You Can
While you should make an effort to avoid spending on credit altogether this holiday season, you should be especially wary of store credit cards. Resisting the urge to open a store credit card can often be difficult, since stores throw all kinds of incentives at you right at the register when you’re feeling the pinch of your purchase. However, that extra $20 off probably isn’t worth spending on store cards, which tend to carry much higher interest rates than your run-of-the-mill credit card with fewer perks. If you use store cards, you might end up spending way more on gifts this holiday season than you bargained for.
10. Subscribe to Store Emails and Other On-site Promotions
Online shops will often gladly give you a discount upfront if it means they can turn you into a repeat customer. Often, this means offering coupons to get you to sign up for email lists so they can continue to market to you over time. If you aren’t interested, just use the coupons and unsubscribe before they clutter up your inbox.
11. Use Coupons (or Coupon Apps)
Couponing is still a big thing, so start looking for coupons right now to save big money on gifts this holiday season. Check your local paper and watch your mail for any coupons that might be coming out for big holiday gift items. Search online, too. Many companies offer coupons and rebates on their websites, so it’s worth searching through these sites for a minute or two to see if you can find a deal. You should also consider using browser extensions such as Honey to search for coupon codes for you as you shop, automating saving with every purchase.
12. Follow Brands and Retailers on Social Media for Savings Updates
Especially around the holidays, brands and retailers are likely to use their social media channels to advertise savings in real-time. Some extra-savvy brands might even post deals exclusively to their social media sites as a reward for their most loyal followers. Follow the brands and retailers that you’re most interested in on social media, or just scroll through their feeds occasionally to find savings.
13. Abandon Your Online Shopping Cart and See What Happens
If you want to nab some holiday gift savings out of thin air, you should try this nifty little trick. Online retailers hate it when you abandon your shopping cart midway through the checkout process. In their minds, they almost had you. More often than not, an abandoned shopping cart will trigger online vendors to send you extra deals and coupons just to entice you to come back and complete your purchase. These deals might come through email, through social media retargeting, or through some other means, but they’re common. So, before you buy, let your cart sit abandoned for a few days and see if the online retailer tries to win you back!
14. Use Live Chat to Get Discounts
Live chat is becoming a common feature on many retailer and brand websites because it gives shoppers a direct, real-time connection to a customer service representative who can answer questions in a personalized way. At the end of the day, these reps want you to shop, and they’re empowered to do what’s necessary to get you to complete your purchase. Spark up a live chat and mention that the items you want to buy are just a little bit outside of your price range. Your live chat rep might be able to hook you up with an exclusive coupon right then, which will save you money while gift shopping this holiday season.
15. Get Free Shipping
There’s no reason to pay for shipping on your holiday purchases. Even if you don’t yet have Amazon Prime, most retailers offer free shipping automatically if you spend enough money. When you’re buying a lot of stuff, this break on shipping can be a huge cost savings. If you don’t qualify for free shipping, check to see if the retailer has a ship-to-store option; if a retailer will ship your purchases to a store near you at no cost, it’s probably a good use of your time to go pick up your order. Finally, if you’re out of other options, check to see if the retailer participates in a free shipping day. Many retailers designate a day late in December when they offer free shipping, guaranteed to arrive before Christmas, as a way to incentivize last-minute purchases.
16. Pick up Gift Cards Secondhand
Did you ever get a gift card you didn’t really need? You probably didn’t know that there are thriving marketplaces all over the internet where you can sell your gift cards for cash. Websites such as GiftCardGranny allows users to buy and sell unwanted gift cards at a discount. This discount is a huge opportunity for the bargain-minded holiday shopper. If you were already going to shop at a store and you pick up a $50 gift card to that store for $40, then you’ve pocketed $10. The same logic applies to giving the gift card as a gift. Gift cards might not be the most exciting gift in the world, but they get the job done. At the very least, they can be handy for completing your holiday gift shopping.
17. Sell Old and Unused Items at Year’s End
One way to offset the cash expenditures you have to make for holiday gift buying is to sell your old and unused items at the end of the year and use the money you make to purchase gifts for others. Large items such as bicycles, tools, and power equipment are great candidates for sites such as Craigslist; smaller items, such as jewelry and collectibles, can be sold easily on eBay. Besides making a little bit of extra cash, you’ll likely be helping other people who are looking for discounted holiday gifts.
18. Give Fewer Gifts (Without Hurting Anyone’s Feelings)
One of the simplest ways to save money during the holidays is to buy fewer gifts. Prior to the holidays commencing, consider talking to your circle of family and friends about the year’s gift plan. Perhaps you can all come to an agreement to curb gift spending on one another, such as by buying gifts for kids only. Doing so will relieve some of the stress and social pressure we all feel around the holidays and save you some money as well.
19. Make Your Own Gifts
If you’re crafty in any way, then making your own gifts can be an affordable and meaningful way to save money over the holiday season. Candles, crafts, and original artwork can be excellent gifts for the holidays. You may be able to get expert help with your gift-making at a local craft store or workshop to produce more high-end goods, too. Some co-working spaces offer the use of tools and even 3D printers, so you could potentially make use of those as well to save money and make truly memorable holiday gifts this year.
20. Give Unique Secondhand Gifts
Secondhand gifts will always be cheaper than buying something brand new, but some people feel awkward about buying something used and giving it to a friend or loved one. However, with online auction sites, Craigslist, and even local classified ads and thrift stores, it’s easy to find high-quality goods these days that are heavily discounted. So, before heading to the mall, try to find a great used item as a holiday gift instead!
The holiday season can be hectic and stressful. However, you can save money and time on your gift shopping this year, and head into the holidays more relaxed than ever. So, consider the tips offered here, and have a happy and fiscally responsible holiday season!