We all know it is the most wonderful time of the year, but finding those perfect presents for family and friends can be frustrating and taxing even for hard core Christmas shopaholics.
As mall crowds and stress rise during the season, so too does the pressure to find the right gifts. After a long day trudging through shopping malls without success, it’s tempting to avoid the fuss and resort to typical boring gifts.
Perhaps the best thing is to not resist. Approach the season with Zen – like water, just go with the flow. Maybe it’s time to embrace classic gifts. The trick, though, is to pick out stylish new versions that make them more desirable.
Holiday gift-giving can be a drain, both on your mental health and your wallet. I’ve put together a list of ideas to help you celebrate Christmas within your limits.
While almost everyone enjoys the Holiday season, many people also agree that Christmas shopping can make December a stressful month – particularly if you’re strapped for cash.
Fortunately, there are still ways to find great presents for your friends and family without having to spend a fortune. Read ahead for some tips on shopping for Christmas presents on a budget:
Make a budget
- Christmas spending often goes overboard when consumers fail to reconcile their budget with their shopping list. To avoid overspending, determine how much you can afford to spend on Christmas and then make a list of all your holiday obligations, including presents, travel, and decorations. Then, ascribe a dollar amount to each item, overestimating slightly.
- It will probably hurt to spend less this year, but consider this: consumers still haven’t repaid their credit card bills from last year’s holidays (according to CNBC). If you’re in the same boat, add up how much you’ve spent on credit card interest and stick to the budget this year.
- A budgeting app like PocketSmith can be a big help when you’re trying to manage your spending. PocketSmith doesn’t just help you set spending goals and monitor how closely you’re following them. It also has a built-in forecasting feature that helps you see how what you spend today will affect your finances up to 30 years into the future.
- Take Advantage of Those Last-Minute Online Sales
- Tons of retailers and brands will offer holiday sales. Often these sales get even better the closer you get to Christmas. Eddie Bauer is offering 50% off at the time of writing this. Macy’s (M) – Get Macy’s Inc Report has been offering sales off and on depending on the day. Take advantage of these moments, and pick things up that would otherwise be far too pricey.
Look for deals
Shopping online makes it much easier to compare prices across different stores. Instead of immediately buying an item off the first website you see, check a few others to see if you can find it cheaper somewhere else.
Certain websites will even offer discounts for first-time shoppers, so consider looking at stores you’ve never bought from before. You may also qualify for a discount if you spend a certain amount, so you could also save money by purchasing multiple gifts from the same site.
Use a cashback card
Using a cashback card can ensure you recuperate at least some of the funds you spend this holiday season. 1 or 2 percent back may not seem like much, but it can add up if you’re buying presents for a number of friends and family members.
Keep next year in mind
You’ll be spending money anyway, so why not make the most of it? Try to set a little money aside for next Christmas. At the end of the season, look at what you spent on gifts, food, and decorations and find ways you can save even more. Then start putting a little money aside each month to pay for those expenses.
Better yet, get started on next year’s savings while you’re shopping for this holiday season. Apps like Acorns will round up to the nearest dollar every time you make a purchase using your connected credit card. You can then invest the money, starting with as little as $5.
Prioritize Your Loved Ones
There’s a pecking order to everything. Decide from the beginning what you’re going to spend on your parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, and filter it out. Obviously your closest loved ones are the folks that you really need to be concerned with. Distant relatives or friends aren’t really going to be expecting too much of you. If you’re on a budget, don’t succumb to the guilt trip. I’m sure they won’t.
Wait until the last minute
This may sound counter-intuitive, but many websites offer free shipping on the final week before Christmas. If you want to ensure you’re not buried by shipping costs, check to see if the store offers any deals closer to December 25th.
Skip the cards
Instead of wasting your money on a bundle of cards that will be immediately thrown out, make your own cards or skip them altogether. Many feel they’re a waste of money and will only add to your shopping bill.
If you don’t want to spend extra on shipping, you can see if the site has the option to pick-up in-store. This will not only save you time when you’re at the mall, but it will also ensure that you’re not spending an extra $10-15 on shipping for every gift you purchase.
Find extra savings
Looking at a long list of presents to buy? Here are some of my favorite shopping hacks:
Look for discount codes
There are plenty of sites that aggregate coupon codes so you can always snag the best deal.
One of the best I’ve discovered is Capital One Shopping, a free browser extension that automatically applies coupon codes at checkout. If you’ve viewed an item, the extension will also alert you when the price drops.
Disclaimer – Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links we provided.
There’s also Earny, which also issues cash back on your online purchases. But what I like about Earny is that it gives rebates when a product I’ve purchased drops in price. To do that, Earny searches your connected email account for purchases you’ve made from its thousands of partner brands.
Sign up for a store’s email list
Usually, you’ll get an extra 10%-20% off if you’re a new subscriber. Sometimes I’ll even create a new email address to get multiple discounts.
Use a cash back credit card
While taking out a credit card for the sole purpose of buying Christmas gifts isn’t the best idea, if you’re in the market for a new card, taking advantage of sign-up bonuses and great 5% cash back categories could be the smart thing to do.
Shop with used gift cards
If I know exactly where I’m doing my holiday shopping, I’ll buy used gift cards for those stores where you can sometimes save up to 10% on a card. You can even find discounted gift cards at Costco or Sam’s Club, with savings up to 25% off.
Save on wrapping
I love wrapping Christmas gifts more than anything, but wrapping paper, bows, and ribbon add up quickly. I shop at the dollar store for all my wrapping needs, where you can get more than enough paper for just a few bucks.
When I was really living on a tight budget, I saved cartoons from the Sunday paper to wrap my gifts. Yes, your gifts won’t look as beautiful under the tree, but it’s better than spending $20 on something that will end up in the trash.
Buy small items first
If you start by purchasing your most expensive gifts first, you may feel obligated to spend more on others. Start with the cheapest gifts first and wait before buying the high-priced items. Chances are, you’ll end up spending a little less under this method.
Create a list
If you prefer to do your shopping in-store, make sure to create a list ahead of time. If you’re not prepared, you could end up doing a lot of impulse purchasing without even realizing. Only go in stores you’ve planned to visit ahead of time. Otherwise, you could get distracted and get sucked into buying more.
Stay within your budget
Write down how much you’d like to spend on each person ahead of time. If the item is considerably over your planned budget, don’t buy it. It’s really that simple.