‘Tis the season to be generous. But if you overspend, it can be disastrous to your finances and relationships next year.
Here are 25 ways to save on holiday shopping now, for no regrets later. From intentionality as to who makes it onto your shopping list, to a budget, to numerous savings hacks… you’ll be glad you discovered these ways to save on holiday shopping. Especially when your bills come due (or don’t) in January.
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Some say there’s no such a thing as being too generous during the holidays. Then again, if you let the facts speak for themselves, most of us should focus more on how to save on holiday shopping, and let our generosity show in more frugal ways.
In 2019, Americans spent an average of $1,048 on holiday gifts, food, travel, and decorations, according to the National Retail Federation. That number is expected to rise in 2020 – based on people saying they owe it to themselves and their families, given how tough a year 2020 was.
The average family creates so much credit card debt during the holidays that it takes until the following May to pay off those bills.
Christmas is a holiday season that’s supposed to focus on family and relationships, but it can strain those relationships greatly when bills come due in January.
That’s dangerous and unnecessary. Here’s how to forge a plan that doesn’t leave you struggling to catch up for the next year. How to save on holiday shopping in 2020. Give yourself the gift of being your money’s boss instead of your money bossing you around. You’ll love the results.
Here are 25 tips on how to save on holiday shopping… and take control of your money. They’ll help make 2021 your best financial year ever.
25 Great Ways to Save on Holiday Shopping in 2020
1. Make a master planning gift list. Be intentional about who’s on it.
Include the people who are the most important to you. Prioritize relationships. Just because someone was always on your list doesn’t mean they should have a permanent place there. Things change. For example, once you have your own children, you may need to scale back on gifts for extended family members.
2. Create a Christmas budget and stick to it.
It’s easy to get carried away with gift-giving. People want to be seen as loving and generous. Parents want to thrill their kids. Grandparents sometimes vie to be the favorite… in a cast that can include numerous players due to divorce. You want to be seen as the nice guy or gal at the office. I get it. But none of those people will pay your bill come January.
A budget puts a hedge of protection around your wallet and bank account.
On your master gift list, write an amount for each person. Add up the numbers. Can you afford the total? Stick to this budget. Refuse to compromise. You can thank me later.
3. Consider making or baking some gifts.
Nothing says a gift must be expensive to be meaningful. Some of the best gifts are made with love. We bake cookies early in the holiday season and give them to friends and neighbors. And people really appreciate it. Some people make handmade soap or beautiful ornaments. Who can you give handcrafted love to this year?
4. Give a coupon book filled with “gifts of love.”
One of my favorite gifts ever was a small vase filled with popsicle sticks from my daughter. On each stick was a promise to perform a specific act of service or kind deed. Things like a back rub, cleaning up the kitchen without grumbling, a bike ride together… It was so meaningful that the sticks and vase have made four cross-country moves with me.
5. Record your spending.
On your master list, note your actual spend (including shipping) for each person on your list. And the gift. If you’re shopping for 20 people, it’s easy to lose track and forget you already bought a gift for Aunt Susie.
6. Monitor your bank and credit card statements.
‘Tis the season for fraud as well as fun. Check your online statements frequently to be sure no one is fraudulently charging purchases to your name or number. If you find fraud, deal with it immediately. The longer you wait, the harder it is to fix. Credit card companies are generally good about handling fraudulent charges. Still, promptness matters.
7. Shop early so you’re not stressed. Stressed people tend to overspend.
Shop early. Your brain works better in slow motion, especially in crowded stores. Rushing makes you spend more, according to The Atlantic. Plus, in those last few days, you have to deal with less selection, big crowds, and express shipping costs.
“Decision fatigue” – making repeated choices in succession – clouds your judgment. Especially dangerous because retailers push impulse purchases hard in the last few days before Christmas.
8. Be careful with personal splurges.
As mentioned earlier, in 2019, the average American spent $1,048 for gifts, food, and decorations surrounding Christmas. Including $162 spent on oneself (not others). Now, a splurge can be okay, if you’re not servicing debt for it. But spending 15% of your holiday budget on yourself can come back to haunt you.
9. Consider selling unused items on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist to raise moolah.
This simple hack is a great way to save money you can use for holiday shopping and maximize your holiday budget. Raid your garage or basement for things like kids’ toys, last year’s electronics, college textbooks, pet crates, and home décor… and list them today. It’s not too late.
10. Earn cash with side hustles.
Turn your expertise or hobbies into a stream of income to help stay on budget this holiday season. Possibilities include pet sitting, pet walking, house sitting, snow shoveling, giving lessons or tutoring, or using your car for ride-sharing or delivery.
11. Steal it. (Put another way, set aside some money for after-holiday sales.)
This could be perfect for people you’ll celebrate with late, like out-of-town family or friends. Or for your personal splurges. Or decorations for next year. You can often find deals of up to 75% off.
12. Be aware of how retailers entice you to hand over your money.
They have a boatload of tricks. Take some of the wind out of their sail (sale) by getting wise to their ways. Here are a few… which do you fall for?
- Slow calming music makes you linger and buy. Whereas restaurants play fast music, to turn over tables more quickly.
- The smell of cinnamon makes you buy more.
- When you touch an item, you bond with it and are more likely to buy.
- Highest-profit items are at the front of the store and at eye level. Staples (i.e., milk and meat) are in back, so you have to walk past everything else to get to them.
- Impulse items like candy bars are at check-out lines. Be especially tunnel-visioned there.
- Per-customer limits make you feel like you’re getting a steal.
- Free stuff is awesome, but it’ll cost you. Think, free shipping over “x” amount.
- Unit pricing – 10 for $10 incentivizes you to buy more. The power of suggestion. You could just buy 3.
- Personalized ads and retargeting. Search a product, and the ads for it will follow you everywhere online.
13. Compare prices with your phone.
Check out sites like FindersCheapers and Slickdeals. But be sure you’re comparing apples to apples, and checking for the same product details when it comes to electronics. And again, just because you find a deal doesn’t mean you should buy it. You can go broke “saving money.”
14. Sign up for an Amazon Prime trial in December.
You can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime to enjoy their free two-day shipping. Plus, other benefits like Prime Days and entertainment. Your account needs a valid credit card to start the trial. You can cancel at any time. Cancel before the trial ends if you don’t intend to keep it.
If you’re a student, sign up for Amazon Prime Student. That program offers a 6-month free trial and is half price thereafter. You must be enrolled in at least one course in an educational institution in the U.S. or Puerto Rico, and have a valid .edu email address.
15. Get 5% cash back on every Amazon purchase.
When you get an Amazon credit card, you get 5% back on all Amazon and Whole Foods purchases if you’re a Prime member. And in certain cases, you may get 10% back.
Alternatively, you can opt for 0% interest for 6 to 18 months on this card. As always, be sure to read the fine print and spend less than you make.
16. Join Rakuten (formerly Ebates) for cash rebates.
With Rakuten, you can get cash rebates from over 2,500 stores. Stores pay Rakuten a commission for sending you to their store, and they share the commission as cash back. Find your favorite store on Rakuten.com, then go shopping. Get cash back by check or through PayPal.
17. Use credit card points to purchase gifts.
Got a bunch of travel credit card points sitting around? Create your shopping list based on using them up. Some are redeemable on Amazon.
While your points won’t go as far as the standard airline award, if you’re strapped for cash and don’t expect to travel in the next year, it might be worth the lower redemption rate. It’s not necessarily ideal. But it’s better than debt.
18. Always seek out discount codes before you check out.
Check sites like RetailMeNot and CouponCabin for discount codes and/or free shipping. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars in 2020 by using these coupon codes. Sometimes there are strings attached, like signing up for an email list (though you can always unsubscribe).
19. Watch for pop-up discount offers on websites when you arrive to shop.
Similar to #18, there’s a string attached… giving your email address. But you can often get an extra 10% or 15% off your first order. And of course, you can always unsubscribe later.
20. Don’t go broke buying expensive gift wrap.
Buy your gift bags, gift wrap, and bows at the Dollar Tree for a buck. You can get a 3-pack of small gift bags for $1. A roll of gift wrap. Or a bag of bows. The challenge will be not “buying out the store” because well, you know, it’s such a bargain.
I’ve bought my gift wrap there for years, because I see no point in spending five times as much for something that’ll be ripped up in a few seconds anyways.
Another way to save money on holiday shopping and gift giving is to reuse saved gift wrap or bags that are still in good shape from previous years. I save every gift bag I receive for this very purpose. I’d rather put the money into the gift itself.
21. Use gift cards you have sitting around to buy gifts for others.
Have gift cards you haven’t used? Why not use them to buy presents for others? Often someone on your list would like stuff at that store more than you do.
If it’s a brand-new gift card, you could regift it.
A third option here is to sell unused gift cards on sites like GiftCards, Cardpool, or Raise… to raise extra cash for gifts. If you’ve had it sitting around for at least two years, you may as well sell it.
22. Purchase discounted gift cards to give as gifts.
GiftCards, Cardpool, and Raise also offer discounted gift cards. But be aware that their inventory changes frequently, so don’t wait till the last minute. Also, if they need to send you a physical gift card, it’ll take a few days (or longer) to get to your mailbox. Another good reason to plan ahead.
23. Join JoinHoney and become a coupon pro.
Join JoinHoney. It only takes a couple clicks to add this extension to your browser. When you shop, it automatically searches for active promo codes and applicable coupons. It makes saving money on holiday shopping – or all year – brain-dead simple.
24. Consider giving your favorite charity a gift.
Many people are less fortunate than you are. Charities are perennially pressed for funds. Make their lives a bit easier by giving them a Christmas gift too… whether it’s a gift of time and service, or a financial gift. Sponsor a third world child through an organization like Compassion International or Samaritan’s Purse.
25. Keep the reason for the season front and center.
Handle your wallet wisely, and you’ll beat holiday stress… and also financial stress in the future. If any year calls for this perspective, it’s 2020. The preciousness of loved ones is especially touching this year.
There you have it… 25 great tips on how to save money on holiday shopping in 2020. All of which will contribute to financial success in 2021.