Shopping for – and paying for- holiday gifts stresses most people more than the relatives, travel and overeating combined. Compared to 2011, holiday spending grew by 3.5 percent in 2012 to a total of $579.5 billion. The National Retail Foundation expects that to grow by 3.9 percent this year to a total of $602.1 billion. That is a lot of money and a lot of stress. Try these ways to save big money this holiday season so you can spend your time enjoying friends, family and fattening but tasty food.
- Prioritize your gift giving. Scale back purchases to immediate family only, or only give gifts to the kids. Spend cash only. Shopping on a credit card, while tempting, just costs more money in the end.
- Online discount codes, coupons and specials stretch your buying budget by up to 90 percent. CouponCodeDay is a good website for online coupons and promotions. They have 1450 plus stores promotions such as Jcpenney, Walmart, Office Max, Staples, Birchbox, kohls and more. Site like groupon have deals with retailers to discount prices when a pre-set number of people agree to purchase the product. Some codes and coupons are “stackable” or can be combined with other deals.
- Leverage technology to get the best shopping deals. Apps for SmartPhones, iPhones, Windows phones are free or very inexpensive. They help you manage your budget and time, keep track of your purchases, and find the best deals for the items you want. Some popular free shopping and money-saving apps include:
- a. Shopular pushes deals to your mobile device as soon as you step inside a store or mall that has a deal listed on the app. Free for Android and iOS.
- b. Postagram is a great app to create customized holiday cards. Turn your cell phone pictures into real postcards that you can mail with just a few taps on the screen. You select a photo, add a message and recipient, pay the postage and away it goes. Free for Android and iOS.
- TikTakTo helps save money on the latest home and clothing fashion trends. You will see the best deals of the day along with the best price sellers. Free for Android and iOS.
- Use up those gift cards that have odd amounts remaining on them. Combine them with a discount code, coupon or rebate for extra savings. Alternately, you can add value back onto the card and gift it to someone on your list.
- Competitor price matching programs save you the time and hassle of returns and exchanges along with multiple stops looking for the best prices. Check the store policies online before you leave home.
- Set a shopping budget and stick with it. Along with thoughtful shopping, this step alone can save you significant cash.
- Set a dollar amount limit for every person on your gift list.
- Limit the number of gifts per child. Teach kids to appreciate what they have and that thoughtful gifts don’t have to be expensive.
- Leave the kids at home or with a sitter while you do your shopping.
- Give homemade gifts and crafts. Even the less artistic can create photo albums and great holiday cookies, candies or fudge. Crafty people might be able to quilt, crochet, paint pottery or create other thoughtful and unique gifts. Collect some glass containers from a garage sale, and use a glass-etching kit to add a monogram or other design.
- Visit the thrift stores and find buried treasures. Find a nice basket, picture frame, and candle, and add some nice body wash and chocolates to create a holiday gift basket for very little money. Fill a basket with breakfast tea and cocoa, a festive mug, and a few gift-sized jars of jams and jellies for a nice breakfast basket. Repurpose picture frames with spray paint and add family photos or words of wisdom. Keep an eye out for books, dishes, costume jewelry and sports memorabilia, too.
Most importantly, stop shopping when you have bought something for everyone on your list. When you run out of money from your budget, stop shopping. Relax and enjoy the rest of the holiday season without last minute shopping or overspending.