Finances & Debt

13 Ways to Save Money on Holiday Gifts

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According to the National Retail Foundation, the average consumer spends almost $1,000 on holiday shopping every year. That may sound more scary than merry if you are trying to tighten your holiday belt this year. To cut back on your holiday spending without being a Scrooge, try these 13 ways to save money.

1. Set – and stick to – a budget.

Creating a gift budget may seem like a no-brainer, but in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season it’s easy to let something like that slip through the cracks. Without a budget, you’re almost guaranteed to overspend, so make it a priority this year.

  • Determine how much you are able to spend on gifts.
  • Make a list of every person you want to give a gift to along with a dollar amount you plan to spend on each of them.
  • Add up the total. Do the two numbers match? If so, great — you have your gift-giving budget under control! But if your wishes are bigger than your wallet, you’ll need to get creative and cut back on how much you’re spending for some people.

2. Shop early to take advantage of sales.

This takes some advance planning, but you can save big money by being on the lookout for sales all year long. One strategy is to start looking for sales in the spring, and then buy one or two items throughout the year (which also helps spread out your holiday spending). Then stash your gifts away for the holidays. 

3. Shop Cyber Monday.

If you aren’t a fan of the packed parking lots and long lines found on Black Friday, try Cyber Monday instead. You’ll find deals across the web – often with sitewide sales that can blow Friday’s deals out of the water.

4. Shop with cash.

You're likely to spend less when you use cash versus a credit card; perhaps this strategy is effective because you see the immediate disappearance of dollars from your wallet. But it also helps you avoid accruing credit card debt (and the accompanying interest charges.) Another tip is to carry large bills so you’ll be less likely to want to break them on small impulse purchases.

5. Sell the kids’ old stuff.

To help pad the gift fund, some parents like to sell things their kids no longer need. You can hold a garage sale in the summer, post items for sale online or take outgrown toys and clothes to your local consignment shop.

6. Make something special for that special someone.

Try your hand crocheting a hat for your sister, creating a digital playlist of your friend’s favorite songs or baking cookies for your co-workers. And get your kids in on the creativity! A homemade glitter-drenched ornament from the grandkids just might be Grandma’s favorite present. And keep in mind, a gift from the heart – kindness, care, quality time, etc. – can go a long way with loved ones.  

7. Get creative with your spouse.

You and your spouse may want to change up the gift-giving rules this year: maybe you agree to make each other gifts. Or maybe you decide you’d rather spend quality time together doing an activity instead of buying something. You could even skip the gifts altogether. One caution to the “no-gifts” approach: It only works if you both agree to it. If exchanging gifts is important to your partner, don’t try this tip! And if you decide on no gifts, you both have to stick to it — don’t make your spouse feel bad by buying them a gift when they won’t have one for you in return.

8. Skip all of the adults!

Some families choose to focus on gift giving for the children and skip those older than 18. In this day and age of instant gratification and "one-click" shopping, many people aren't waiting until the holidays and just buy what they want, whenever they want it. So consider whether someone really needs a gift just because "that's what we've always done." 

9. Try stocking stuffers.

When it comes to gift giving, sometimes bigger is not better. Consider switching the focus from big, expensive items to smaller, yet meaningful gifts to place in others' holiday stockings. This could be a gift card to a favorite boutique, cozy mittens or a festive bottle of wine – things that speak directly to someone's personality and unique tastes. Plus, with many relatives already shelling out a good chunk of change to travel home for the holidays, smaller gifts may be a refreshing change of pace and not such a large financial burden. 

10. Draw names.

If you have a large family or group of friends, put everyone’s name in a hat and have each person draw one name. Then you can put your time, energy and money into getting a nice, meaningful gift for just one person.

11. Host a white-elephant exchange.

An annual white-elephant exchange can be the highlight of your next holiday get-together. There's many variations, but here's generally how it works: Each person brings one small, inexpensive gift. Everyone draws a number, then picks a present from the pile in order of the number they drew. You can either choose a new present from the pile or steal from someone else. Typically, the gifts really vary, which is part of the fun! Someone may bring an outlandish hunting cap that draws big laughs – and makes an encore appearance at every year's exchange. You never know what unique gift you'll take home which is a big part of the fun.

12. Get a group gift.

Choosing individual gifts for each person in a family can be expensive and time-consuming. Instead, consider one gift that the whole family can enjoy – maybe a family-friendly game or movie, or a season pass to their local swimming pool or zoo.

13. Choose what’s most important.

You don’t have to do everything this holiday season. If you don’t enjoy sending cards, skip the cards and put the money toward your gift budget instead. Or if you love sending cards, cut down on gifts and spend time crafting meaningful messages in your cards.

Finally, one way to approach gift giving is to focus more on experiences than on things, time together versus a ton of packages under the tree. To focus less on material things and more on the spirit of the season, consider a joint donation to a favorite charity with the adults on your list, or volunteer together over the holidays instead of exchanging gifts.



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