8 Tips to Save on Holiday Shopping This Year

Two Women Shopping For Gifts

December is definitely budget-busting time. With holiday shopping sprees and a full calendar of festivities, even the thriftiest among us is tempted to overspend. But you can enjoy the season without regret. Take control of your finances this year and follow these tips to save on holiday shopping:

Make a plan and stick to it

We've all been there. It's December 23rd and you still haven't found "just the right" gift for your mother-in-law, boss or the kids' teachers. When you're up against the clock, you are most likely to overspend. Avoid this kind of last-minute frantic shopping by planning ahead:

  1. Take a tip from Santa: make a list and check it twice. Include everyone from your significant other to the mailman and jot down gift ideas for each.
  2. Set a realistic budget and allocate your spending to each recipient. Then stick to it!

The Best way to Save on Holiday Shopping is to Shop early

It's never too early to begin your holiday shopping, and we do mean December 26. Keep a lookout for great gift buys all year long. You'll be thrilled to find your secret stash of brilliant bargains when the gift-giving season arrives.

Pay with cash

Somehow, paying with cash hurts a bit more than a mere swipe of a credit card. Take your budgeted amount (see #1 above), place the cash in an envelope, and pledge not to spend one dime more than your budget permits.

Think outside the box

If your holiday gift list is getting out of hand, it may be time to rethink your options.

  1. Rather than buy a gift for every aunt, cousin and in-law on the family tree, suggest drawing names or holding a fun "White Elephant" (aka Yankee Swap or Dirty Santa) gift exchange with extended family. Be sure to set a dollar limit.
  2. Choose a fun family gift (e.g., a DVD, board game or movie tickets) instead of buying individual toys for every kid on your list.
  3. Suggest a friendly office potluck in lieu of individual holiday gifts. Your workplace buddies may be relieved (really, who needs another pine-scented candle) and you'll all enjoy a fun get-together.

Two Words: Dollar Store

That pricy wrapping paper sure looks lovely, but ask yourself: will anyone really appreciate it in the Christmas morning frenzy? The dollar store is your best bet for reasonably priced holiday cards, wrapping paper, gift bags, and decorations.

There’s more than one way to save on holiday shopping at the dollar store. For example, when you need a few extra plates, cups or wine glasses for your holiday celebrations, look no further than the dollar store. Mix and match your dollar store finds with the "good stuff" in your china closet. Trust us, no one will judge you.

Make the most of online shopping

  1. Never pay for shipping. Consider an Amazon Prime subscription, which provides fast and free shipping all year long. Another great option: avoid the crowds by buying online and then ship-to-store.
  2. Sign up for e-mails from your favorite department stores and retailers, which routinely send special coupons and discounts to subscribers.
  3. Shop Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but spend some time researching prices to be sure you're actually getting a deal in order to optimally save on holiday shopping.

Take advantage of rebates and bonuses

Don't miss out on cash back offers that can add up to big savings.

  1. Check with your credit card company for any cashback bonuses for purchases at specified retailers or online.
  2. Join an online site like Ibotta or Rakuten for cashback offers that are often as much as 5% or more.

Shop end of season sales

One of the easiest ways to save on holiday shopping is to take advantage of the end of season sales. Those pine wreaths and festive garlands appeared in the store aisles well before the first trick or treater rang your doorbell. The upside? "End-of-season" sale often means as early as mid-December. It's your chance to score huge savings of 50% or more on holiday cards, wrapping paper, and seasonal decorations.