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How can I save money during the holidays?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – but it can also be one of the most expensive! Saving during the holidays can be a challenge, especially when it comes to gift shopping. Whether you’re buying gifts for Christmas or Hanukkah, don’t get wrapped up in the holiday spending trap.

From making a list and checking it twice, to finding the best holiday sales, use these 7 tips to avoid busting your holiday budget. (And maybe come out with a bit of savings for the New Year!)

Save on holiday spending by making a list

  • Write down everyone who needs a present
  • Estimate your total budget
  • Figure out how much money you have to spend on each person

If you know what gifts you want to buy for each person, write them down. This helps you stay on track while shopping versus impulse spending and saves you time at the store. If you know the store, write it down as well. Use a table or a spreadsheet like the example below.


Name Budget Item Store
Wilma $125 Pearl earrings  
Pebbles $11 Hair bows Etsy
Barney $17 Bowling glove Bedrock Bowling Company
Dino $10 Bone  


Stick to your list and be careful of “great deals” or splurges. If you come under budget, stick that money into a Bonus Saver savings account so you can earn money on your savings. By this time next year your Bonus Saver might earn enough extra money to buy a present or two!

A couple of things to consider when gift shopping:

  • Comparison shop. Many stores will even price match.
  • Watch the price. If you buy something that goes on sale after purchase, see if the retailer will refund the difference.
  • Save ALL receipts in case they’re needed for returning gifts.

Scale back on your holiday spending

Do you have a never-ending list of people on your gift-buying list? If so, find a few people you can cross off. Do you really need to buy for co-workers, your hairdresser, the mailman, or the dog groomer? A nice holiday card can share your well wishes and season’s greetings just as well.

If you feel like you just can’t cross them off the list, consolidate.

Instead of buying something for everyone in the family, look for a family gift idea. Think of a fun activity that the entire family could do together. Perhaps a movie basket with treats and a big blanket to snuggle in for a movie night, or a snow day activity kit to help the kids fend off boredom. You’ll look like a great gift giver and save some cash in the process.

Shop online for gift bargains

Skip the stores and do your shopping online – it’s a great way to avoid the holiday bustle and save money. You’d be surprised by how many retailers offer online holiday sales and specials that aren’t available in stores.

Make sure you purchase from sites offering cheap or free shipping – don’t bust your budget on expensive shipping charges.

Keep these tips in mind when shopping online

  • Use online coupon codes to save even more money!
  • Start shopping early for better deals. Think Black Friday.
  • Shop the sales and use coupons and rebates.

Remember, even if you only save $5, every bit adds up and helps your holiday budget.

Negotiate holiday gift spending

Talk with family and friends and agree to keep the presents within a certain dollar amount. This will save both of you from stressing about holiday finances. It can also be a fun adventure to find gifts that fall under the budget.

Initiate a gift exchange!

Not only is an exchange fun for everyone, it is a great way to cut costs. Each family member draws a name and purchases a gift for that person. A spending limit is set for everyone.

Cut gifts all together

Might sound drastic, but the holidays are about spending time with those we love. Suggest that the entire family forgo gifts this year and get together for a special event or a nice meal.

If you are getting together for a meal, do a potluck. It helps to reduce costs and you know your family’s favorites will be on the table. (A great trick for those picky eaters!)

Save on wrapping

Use retailers who provide free gift wrapping – this saves time, money and ensures pretty presents. Also, stock up on discounted wrapping paper when the season is over to save money next year.

Brown kraft wrapping paper (or paper drop cloth) from home improvement stores tied up with some ribbon makes for a shabby chic wrapping option. Kids can also draw and color on the paper to give it a one-of-a-kind design.

This post is part of a series of 12 Months of Savings. Interesting in saving more? Check out some of the other stories in the series and our most recent savings articles.

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