10 Tips To Save Money On Your Christmas Shopping And Avoid Going Into Holiday Debt

I know we’re still a couple of months away from Christmas, so most people probably aren’t getting into the holiday spirit quite yet.  But as the stores put out holiday gear earlier every year, and as we’re bombarded with Christmas advertising as soon as the Thanksgiving holiday passes us by, I thought it might not be a bad idea to get out ahead of the gift buying frenzy, and start thinking about saving up and planning ahead for the Christmas buying season. After all, it’s one of the highest spending times of the year for many families.  Last year the American Research Group, Inc. surveyed people across the country about holiday spending, and despite tough economic times, you might be surprised at how much people are still planning to spend.

Shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $646 for gifts this holiday season, down from $658 last year according to the twenty-sixth annual survey on holiday spending from the American Research Group, Inc.

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While the stores haven’t really started bombarding us with Christmas music when we shop, and the holiday displays probably won’t be up until the day after Thanksgiving, we can still plan ahead and make sure that we find ways to cut back on that huge holiday bill. Here are a few things you can do to plan ahead, and avoid falling prey to the rampant consumerism this year and make sure to keep it a frugal holiday.

save money christmas shopping

10 Tips To Save This Christmas

Here are my 10 tips for saving this Christmas season.

  • Set a Christmas spending budget early in the  year, save up for it in cash: Something that we do at our house that has allowed us to remain Christmas debt free is to set a holiday spending budget early in the year – sometime right after new years, and we save up money every month so that we have the cash on hand to buy Christmas gifts come December. According to one study only 13% of shoppers will actually save money throughout the year in anticipation of the holiday season. (source).  Be one of the 13% this year, and save up and pay cash for your Christmas gifts!  And don’t go over your budget, only spend what you have saved!
  • Use cash back shopping programs: When you’re shopping online make sure to take advantage of cash back and perks programs through sites like SwagBucks.com, CashCrate.com, Ebates.com.  Many of those sites will allow you to get a small percentage of your purchase back in cash, gift cards or other perks. The hard part is just remembering to use them.
  • Use a cash back debit card: You can use a cash back debit card like the one we have with Perkstreet.com.  Basically we get anywhere from 1-5% cash back just for using the card, the cash bonuses deposited directly into our account. They have special Power Perks categories as well that mean we can get more cash back, usually in the range of 5% back, which can help you to save even more if you were planning on shopping at the specific stores anyway.
  • Research to find the best deals: Shop around online to find the best deals on the gifts you were planning on buying. You can use shopping comparison sites like Google’s shopping search engine to nail down the best prices. You can also use helpful browser plugins like Invisible Hand to get the best deals.  Basically you go to a site like Amazon.com, search for your item, and then the browser plugin searches a myriad of other stores to see where the best deal is.
  • Use coupons and discounts when you buy: Make sure your final purchase decision takes into account whether you can get a coupon code or other discount at the retailer.  Check sites like RetailMeNot.com or others (do a google search!) to find coupon codes.
  • Ask for a discount, and then negotiate the price: One thing that not a lot of people will even think to do is to negotiate the price on the item you’re buying.  Often you can offer less and offer to pay in cash, and get a better deal on an item. At least it’s worth trying to see if they’ll knock 10-15% off the price – often they will.
  • Big family or group?  Draw names instead of buying for everyone: Come from a big family, and buying gifts for everyone could put you in the poor house?  Try drawing names instead and giving a nicer gift to only one family member. It can save you and everyone else in the family, a lot of money.
  • Get creative, and more frugal, with your gift giving: Come up with more frugal and creative Christmas gifts.  Those types of gifts can lead to a lot of savings, and often it’s going to be more personal of a gift as well.   Check out our list of 100 frugal Christmas Gifts for ideas.
  • Set your budget in stone: You’ll probably be tempted to go over your budget when you’re out shopping. You’ll find the “perfect” gift for your spouse, bet tempted to buy the hot gift for your kids, or something else that could cause you to go over your pre-set budget. Don’t give in to the temptation, and stick to what you had planned on spending beforehand.  Don’t give in!
  • Shop early for next year: Think about shopping for and finding great deals at after Christmas sales on items you can give to people next year.  Yes, you’ll have to hold on to the gifts for the next year, but you could end up saving 50-75% or more over what the items cost before Christmas!  This can apply to things like Christmas decorations and party favors as well.

Those are a few tips that we’ve used to help cut back on our Christmas spending. I’ll be the first to admit that we don’t always follow them to the letter, but even doing just a few of these can help to curtail the out of control consumerism we find at Christmas.

What tips do you have to avoid going into debt at Christmas, and making it an enjoyable and fun holiday season?
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Last Edited: 15th October 2012

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  1. says

    I’m a huge fan of Black Friday sales sites. They give you heads up on impending sales, which is invaluable now that you have pre-Black Friday sales too. They also usually provide comparison pieces for computers and TVs that will be offered.

    Also, inre: cash-back sites, don’t forget Mr. Rebates and Extrabux. They tend to have the higher rates of cash back — but you always have to check!

    Last Christmas, our budget was pretty lean and my in-laws (who had just moved in with us) were broke. So we decided to do a $25 Christmas. Each couple could only spend $25 on a person. I got most of the items using Amazon GCs courtesy of Swagbucks. We paid a total of about $40 out of pocket, most of which was my husband who prefers to shop in-store.

    It’s always nice to give nice gifts (which we afford via Amazon GCs) but it definitely made us more creative. This year, things aren’t as tight, but we’re going to do another spending cap. I’m thinking $40 per person.

  2. says

    I always find that if you can’t get your shopping done before Thanksgiving, then it’s best to shop early in the week. On Monday and Tuesday evenings the stores are less crowded. It’s a much less stressful experience, and there’s a definate connection between tranquility and saving money.

    If you aren’t hurried and stressed, you can concentrate on doing what you came to do, find the best deals and be on your way. Crowds can force you to make compromises that don’t usually go in your favor. You end up buying over budget just so you can get your shopping done. At least that’s how it goes with me.

  3. says

    For big families, you can go for a “family gift” instead of a personal gift. Also look at the gift cards you have to see if you can use those gift cards to pay for some the gifts you are buying this season.

  4. says

    I never had a big family myself, but when I’d visit my friend’s home for Christmas, they always participated in secret santa exchanges. Not only did they have to shop for 1 person only, it was more fun that way because the other person didn’t know who their gifter is. Also, kids typically got small cash gifts instead of all out expensive tangible object gifts.

  5. says

    Sometimes I forget just how much money my wife and I end up spending on gifts, and that’s even with planning it out and setting a budget. I will have to take advantage of some of your tips this year and see how much of a difference they make.

  6. JD says

    We stopped all the gift giving several years ago and only buy small gifts for the children. It probably is extreme but it has worked for us and relieved other family members from feeling the pressure to purchase gifts.

  7. says

    I forgot to mention that I had a friend with a large family. Like, 8 kids large.They did a secret santa so everyone only had to cover one other person. Made it easy for the kids AND the adults.

  8. says

    In the Philippines, Christmas is really a big deal. As early as September, Christmas songs are played on malls, because it’s already the -BER months, and we should start preparing. But most households would still go to night markets to score really great bargains.

    As for me? Call me Scrooge, but I’m not a big fan of giving gifts that I can’t really afford to buy. :)

  9. says

    Like you, I also do a Christmas budget early in the year, although I don’t start quite as early as you do. I typically start mine in June.

    I also use the extra time leading up to the holidays to scout out the best deals. When I find a great deal on something that I know someone on my list will love – I pick it up. Doing this usually leaves me with just a handful of people left to shop by the time the rush hits.

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