It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And the most expensive. It’s that time of year when we flock to stores to knock out our Christmas shopping list. Some bloggers will tell you that the way to save money is to make your own gifts or to donate to a charity on behalf of someone. Those ideas might work for adults, but let’s be honest, it won’t fly with kids. Here are ways to save money while doing your holiday shopping.
Start Your Christmas Shopping Early
Stores have their biggest sales when they need to move inventory, typically when items are out of season or becoming less popular. You can take advantage of this by keeping a list of people you know you’ll be shopping for and notate a few gift ideas next to their name. An easy way to do this is to check if your friends and family have Amazon wishlists. Once you know what people want, you can be on the lookout for those seasonal sales.
Another way to find the best Christmas deals is to use price-tracking sites like CamelCamelCamel.com. This site tracks an item’s historical price on Amazon. You can see from the below example, the best time for me to buy a PlayStation 4 is actually the day after Christmas (December 26th). Making that small change will save me $151 from the highest Amazon price (April 24th).
Make Your Christmas Shopping List And Check It Twice
Have you ever gone to the grocery store with a mental checklist and an empty stomach only to purchase plenty of things you don’t need?
Good, I’m not alone.
The same idea is true when Christmas shopping; Make a list and stick to it. Some people like to also set dollar limits on gifts or set a total spending budget for the year. Making your Christmas shopping list is a way to ensure that you stick within the budget.
If you want to really reduce the pain of shopping, start a “gift fund” and contribute to it all year. The average American will spend $929 on gifts this season. You can break this down and contribute $77 a month to the savings account. Many people find $77 a month to be less damaging on their finances than a $929 lump expense.
Bonus: If you need a Christmas list template to help guide your shopping, you can download one here.
Black Friday might be the worse day to go to a store, but the second worst has to be December 26th. Inevitably we will receive some presents that we don’t want and have no idea what to do with. In fact, 31% of people will try to return one of their gifts to the store. Another large percent will try to sell their items on the internet. An item loses some value the second it leaves the store, which means you could even save money on a brand new item. This is true for gift cards too. Look on sites like eBay and Craigslist to find items that are new but at a used price.
Use Cash or Debit Cards
Holiday shopping with cash or debit card is a smart choice simply because they avoid potential interest payments. The average credit card interest rate is 19.05%. Interest rates are always represented for the year, so to see how much interest you would pay in a month you need to divide that rate by 12. This means you will pay 1.5875% on your balance every month.
Let’s look at how this would impact the average Christmas shopping balance of $929. 1.5875% of $929 is $14.75. This means that unless you pay your balance in full, you will be paying $14.75.
That might not seem like much, but remember the effects of compounding interest. Your new credit card balance is $943.75. The next month, you will have to pay 1.5875% on that new balance. The new interest payment is $14.98. That interest amount will continue to grow until you reduce your balance.
If you have read other blogs, you might see them recommend that you use credit cards for the rewards. This is only good advice if you can pay the balance in full in the same month so that you don’t accrue any interest. I promise the amount you pay in interest will be bigger than whatever reward you earn.
Double Check For Sneaky Extras
Have you ever seen an item listed online for $20, but by the time you get to the checkout page the price has somehow jumped up by $8?
Businesses will always try to upsell you. It might feel like you’re adding small and useful features, but these quickly add up. Some common upsell traps are:
- Gift wrapping
- Expedited shipping
- Product Insurance
Use These Online Shopping Tricks
If you’re like me, you will do everything within your power to avoid brick and mortar stores during the holidays. Here are some of my favorite tactics to score discounts when shopping online.
- Check prices in Google Shopping. This feature will usually find the cheapest option on the web.
- Abandon the cart at checkout. Sometimes the business will email you a coupon the next day to encourage you to finish your checkout.
- Shop at major stores. During the holidays they might offer free shipping.
- Look for coupons. Sometimes it is as simple as Googling “Coupon for XYZ.” There are sites out there like Ebates.com and Retailmenot.com that make finding coupons and discount codes easy.
- Sign up for the company’s newsletter or download their app. Some of them will offer you a coupon for joining.
- Look through your old gift cards. People often have some sitting around with a couple of dollars left on them. It can come in handy this time of year.
- Use your discounts if you are a student, teacher, senior, or veteran.
- Make sure you have a cashback app. One of my favorites is ibotta.com.
- If you do use a credit card, try to use one that has “price protection.” This feature will refund the difference if an item you purchased goes on sale at a later time. Keeping track of this can be cumbersome so I would recommend using a service like Earny.co to automate the process.
Even though it feels especially cruel, identity theft is most likely to happen during the holidays. Here are some blog posts we recommend you read to ensure your information remains secure.