The holidays are nearly upon us, and there’s no better time to put together your gameplan for holiday shopping (if you haven’t already!). Make your list, set your budget and try to do a little at a time so you’re not overwhelmed.
And to help further, I thought I’d share 15 ways to save money on your holiday shopping this season (and every season!). Many of these ideas will also help you save money beyond the holiday gift shopping, and throughout the year. Feel free to add your ideas!
- Shop daily deal websites for deeply discounted deals. With Daily Deal websites like Groupon and LivingSocial, you can really get the biggest bang for your buck! You can treat your friends and family to local events, dining out, spa services and all sorts of gadgets and gifts for 50-80% off. In addition, if you register at any of these websites, they usually offer you referral credits for inviting your friends. This is another great way to earn free credits to use towards already discounted deals. (And you can get 6.4% cash back from BigCrumbs if you shop through their Groupon link!) And don’t forget to check out SmartySaver.com’s Second Chance Marketplace for daily deals you may have missed the first time around.
- Shop Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Black Friday is known for being the biggest shopping day of the year…with Cyber Monday coming in second with the online shopping options. But how to get the biggest savings? Don’t get caught up in the hype! Do your research and have your list ready before you brave the sales. Check www.blackfriday.info for the latest ads at various stores like Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, JC Penney and more. The most important thing is to compare pricing before the sale, to make sure you’re truly getting the best deal. Plan what you want to buy, then check regular prices and see how it stacks up the Black Friday sales. Also to get added bonuses, check for giveaways and other incentives that stores may be offering that day.
- Shop online and earn cashback. If you’re like me, you’d rather do all your shopping from the comfort of your easy chair. And in addition to saving time and gas (and in many cases, not paying sales tax if you shop on sites like Amazon that don’t have a brick and mortar counterpart), you can also save by shopping via sites that offer you cashback. NOTE: Since the cashback amounts can change from time to time, I usually check Cashreporter.com to see who’s offering the best rates. I have already saved well over $300 in the past 6 months shopping on cashback sites, and they’re all FREE to use!Here’s a list of my personal favorites:
- BigCrumbs.com (they even give cashback for Groupon at 6.4%)
- Ebates.com – they offer daily double cashback from select merchants
- Before you shop, check for coupons and online coupon codes out there! You can almost always find a coupon code for free shipping or 10% off or more. Go to Google or your search engine and type “coupon codes for JC Penney” (as an example, you fill in the store you’re looking for) and you’ll get links to websites offering available coupons and coupon codes.
- If you’re going to buy gift cards, shop the stores and restaurants that offer bonus cards with purchase. Every year around the holidays, you’ll find that restaurants and stores will offer bonus gift cards if you purchase a certain dollar amount of gift cards. Here are the current offers available (I’ll share more here as they become available):
- Barnes and Noble is offering a $10 bonus gift card if you buy $100 worth of gift cards or e-gift cards, now through 12/6/11.
- Outback is offering a $20.00 bonus gift card if you buy $100 worth of gift cards, now through 12/31/11.
- Benihana is offering a $10 bonus gift card for every $50 in gift cards you purchase, now through 12/31/11 (the bonus cards are redeemable January 2nd through March 31st, 2012)
- Cash In Your Credit Card Rewards. Something I do every year is cash in my credit card reward points for gifts or gift cards for my friends and family. Last year I was able to get about $300 in Amazon rewards certificates, and about $50.00 towards iTunes. That took care of most of my shopping for friends. And since so many of Amazon’s items are discounted at fantastic prices, so that helped stretch my budget too. I’m also am Amazon Prime member, so two-day shipping is free. So cash in some of those rewards you have lying around before they expire!!
- Check your favorite Airline and Credit Cards for Reward Partner discounts. Another way to save money is to check your Airline and Rewards partners for discounted shopping offers. American Express offers it, U.S.Airways offers it, Delta offers it and I know Sony and Borders Rewards Perks all have discounted shopping. Also watch for those free shipping offers!
- Forego the gift exchange altogether. To really save some green (and stress of holiday shopping!), you could just agree to spend some time together instead. Or offer a gift of your time, like babysitting for a friend who has children, house sitting, walking the dog, mowing their lawn, etc.
- Scour local yard sales. I found some phenomenal brand new items at a yard sale a few weeks ago–still unopened in the box! I got a beautiful photo frame, some brand new toys and some holiday ornaments. Some of the items cost me as little as $1.00, some cost $5.00. You can’t beat that!
- Shop at local thrift and consignment stores. You’d be amazed what you can find there on the cheap! At my local Salvation Army store, I find brand new clothing with the tags still on, for just a few dollars.Or, visit a children’s consignment store to see if you can find gifts for the special kids in your life (or even to donate to Toys for Tots or Kids in Distress). Not to mention you can find things like holiday decor (again sometimes brand new still in the box) and other gift ideas. I’ve even been able to get software still unopened!
- Check classifieds websites for great deals and free items. Check out craiglist and ebay classifieds listings for great deals on items (some brand new). Ebay offers free shipping on a lot of items. Some people also give away great items for free online as well (check www.freecycle.org for more free items).
- Purchase restaurant gift certificates for less! You can score $25.00 gift certificates for $10.00 (or less) at Restaurant.com or CharityDine.com. Nearly each week they run special promotions to get $25.00 certificates for only $2.00 or $3.00 (check back here on SmartySaver for that info). You can also check local radio stations for dining deals. A couple of our radio stations here in South Florida do something similar to Restaurant.com and I’ve gotten $100 certificates for $50.00. Again, there’s usually a limited number of certificates available for purchase, so you have to act fast. Here’s the link to Pauly’s Picks at Big 106 and one to 97.9 WRMF.
- Have a “swap” party! Everyone has things they don’t want or need–I know I have clothing I’ve never worn (that I can’t fit into any more) and brand new gifts I’ve received that I can’t use. Have your friends over and everyone brings a few unused items they want to “swap”…then each person can choose something that they can use–whether for a gift for someone else, of for themselves. It’s a great way to reduce your unused items, and get something you really like without spending a dime! And it’s a fabulous reason to have a holiday party–have everyone bring a pot luck dish and it can be really festive!
- Make an inexpensive gift that’s meaningful, like a photo album. I have a friend that I’ve known since junior high, and one year I put together a scrapbook of years of photos, tickets from events we’d gone to, and quotes of things we’d done together. I also made a CD of memorable 80’s music that I knew would give her a smile and a slice of nostalgia pie. Or if you’ve gone digital, burn a CD or DVD with a photo slideshow, or create a personalized calendar at Shutterfly or Snapfish–that costs your time and about $12.00. The memories are priceless! And there are some deals to be had on the Daily Deal websites from time to time. For instance,I got $100.00 worth of merchandise for $25.00 from Picaboo through Groupon.
- This one can be touchy, but…regift! I have some really beautiful things that I’ve never used (some weren’t given to me, just things I bought myself), and I think it’s perfectly okay to regift it if you know it’s something the recipient will love. This can work really well with jewelry and things of that nature. Of course, be sure you don’t regift back to the person who originally gave it to you! And it can be tricky with clothing, especially if you don’t have a receipt or the exchange timeframe has expired.
I hope these tips help you save some money this year…and every year! And remember, it’s best to have a budget established first, before you set forth on the shopping. You’d be surprised what you can do for $25.00 or less with some of the ideas I’ve mentioned above.
Have any other ideas on how to save? Give me a shout out and let me know!