Holiday 1

The holiday shopping season is upon us.  In fact, many people have already purchased some or all of their gifts.  If you’re still shopping, or haven’t started yet, here are some great ways to save money this holiday shopping season.

Sales.  This time of year is known for its sales, but keeping up on them can be a bit confusing.  There are 2 ways to approach holiday sales.  1. Go wherever the best deal is, regardless.  2. Go to a few places that have the best deals on the big items, even if you pay a little more.  Personally, I go with the latter – too many stores makes it tougher to calculate actual savings, plus I usually end up paying more in shipping or gas.  I have friends, however, who have a route planned out for weeks, and even do dry runs to plan for traffic and taking only right turns (like UPS)!

When it comes to sales, keep in mind that a sale is only a good deal if you need what you’re buying.  Just like people tend to overeat diet food, we tend to over buy at sales.

Loyalty perks.  Some stores have some really amazing loyalty perks for customers if you sign up.  Follow your favorite store or brand on Facebook for exclusive sale codes.  Get a store credit card (if you can pay it off every month) to get a discount, cash back, or points toward future purchases.  Be loyal for extra savings given for extra purchases, like Target’s pharmacy rewards.

Coupons.  I don’t do coupons normally, but when it comes to holiday shopping all bets are off.  Look for coupon codes on Facebook or Twitter, check out Retail Me Not, and collect coupons from catalogs as they come in.  When stacked on top of already discounted prices, coupons can definitely be worth the effort.

Ebates.*  If you shop online, you NEED an Ebates account.  It’s free and it gives you cash back to shop.  What could be better than that?!  I’ve only had my account a few months and I’ve earned $110 in cash back.  No joke.  Most major retailers, and many smaller ones, are part of the program.  And you can use the ship to store option to earn cash back on items you pick up in the store on the same day.  There’s literally no down side.  If you don’t have an account, sign up here.

Swagbucks.*  I’m very new to Swagbucks, but I heard so many people singing its praises, I had to check it out.  Unlike Ebates or other cash for spending sites, Swagbucks pays you in gift certificates.  You earn Swagbucks for purchases made through the site, signing in, referring friends, and taking surveys.  I personally think this is perfect if you’ve got your heart set on something that isn’t in the budget right now.  Do your regular shopping through Swagbucks and earn a gift certificate to pay for it.  You can try it out by clicking here.

Credit cards.  I don’t encourage using credit cards to buy more than you can afford, or charging things that you expect you’ll be able to pay for later.  However, you can’t deny that cash back is better than no cash back.  Or that travel points are better than no travel points.  If you have a card that gives you rewards for using it and – and this is important – you can pay it off in full, there’s no problem with using a credit card.

Make your gifts.  Okay, this can go either way.  Sometimes homemade gifts cost way more than store-bought, but if you can make cookies instead of buying them you can save a lot of money.  Some things you can save money making would be baked goods, candy and other confections, body scrubs and washes, craft projects, etc.  You can also go half and half by buying something plain and glamming it up with an etching or paint.

Buy in bulk.  I recently got a Groupon for 15 bottles of wine for $48.50.  While Mr. O and I aren’t really wine people, those bottles, which are about $5 each even with the $30 shipping, will make great gifts for friends and family, and the odd person that turns up with a gift that you didn’t buy for.  You can also buy in bulk and repackage for a bit of a homemade touch.

Don’t buy as much.  This is the most obvious, yet often overlooked answer to saving money.  Just don’t buy as much.  Instead of getting your children piles of toys, get them a few things they’ll really love.  Start a Secret Santa or Yankee Swap with your extended family so that you’re not buying presents for 20 people you hardly know.

What are your best tips for saving money on holiday gifts?  Share in the comments.

It can be especially hard to limit spending during the holidays. Here are some great tips on how to keep from spending more than you have.