The holiday season celebrates the best in mankind, whatever holiday you celebrate. But gift-giving holidays also brings out the worst in people: greed, lack of self-control, over-indulgence, burnout. If you overspend in December, plan on heartache in January. Here are 25 frugal holiday shopping tips and ways to save money on budget Christmas presents. The original fru-gal shares penny-pinching tricks and money-management skills to keep you from feeling the pinch come New Year’s Day!
Set a budget and stick to it. Plan how much you’ll spend overall and divide it among gift recipients. In “hard candy Christmas” years, when money is tighter, pare down across the board. Follow the same budget but cut down the individual amounts.
Plan, plan, plan. Begin early and make lists of items that people on your Christmas list need or want. Watch prices on these items and look for sales.
Make no excuses. Don’t apologize for the size or cost of your Christmas presents to others. You owe explanation for why you couldn’t or didn’t get what they expected. If anyone–including a child–is dissatisfied, shame on them. Maybe next year they’ll get a rock.
Don’t play the matching gift game when holiday shopping. Give in love and spend what you feel you can afford. If others spend more, that is their choice. You do not have to run out and find a matching gift. Manufacturers and merchandisers count on Christmas guilt to drive overspending. Don’t get sucked into it. It will ruin your holiday worrying about how you’ll pay for what you overspent.
Skip Christmas gift exchanges with people you don’t know. You have no idea what to get them and up trading gift cards. If you are in charge of holiday planning, suggest contributing to a charity. Don’t make gift exchanges more than a frugal $5. Play a trading game where the gifts circulate and no one knows who brought what. It is easier and no one leaves feeling like an idiot or cheapskate.
Being a frugal shopper means not giving in to pressure. Guilt-driven Christmas shopping is a one way trip to psychotherapy and misery. You cannot make up for lost time with money or presents. Plus, the best Christmas presents are homemade, frugal or gifts of time spent together. When I was four, my parents put together a little baking set for me (this was pre-Easy-Bake oven). We had tons of fun making cakes. They have since divorced and I treasure those memories of happy times together.
Check your mail, newspapers, magazines and coupons and online for coupon codes. Ask stores about coupons, Many will text coupon codes to you. Clip paper coupons and organize by store, Keep them in the car or in your purse. Note on your planner calendar when sales begin and end. Set text alerts.
Don’t overlook unusual stores. You can save money with super clearance deals in the most unexpected places. Hollister has awesome clearance prices. Menard’s has a great toy section. Harbor Freight sells cheap tools–great for guys and gals! Dollar Stores have bargains and budget Christmas gifts.
Check your receipts for accuracy and for coupons printed on them. Request an adjustment or refund if you were not charged the sale price. Make sure you get all coupon savings. If you forget to use one, ask if you can have it applied. Save money on future purchases with coupons printed on the back.
Save money with store credit card rebates, coupons and rewards. Many stores now offer store credit and major credit cards with their logo. Apply for them if you can earn rebates and coupon savings. If you still can get the perks, choose the store card. Use the card that gives the highest reward points.
Save money with free store loyalty cards to get special deals, prices and coupons. Never buy a store card (why would you pay to pay?). Shop and use your card on discount days and special savings events. Note sales and holiday shopping events.
Watch for store flyers with coupons attached. Scan coupon books and circulars for store coupons. Clip restaurants coupons as well, so you can save money when you stop for lunch after Christmas shopping.
Look for rebates on budget Christmas presents. Comparison shop between stores. Walmart and Meijer sold a large frying pan for $30, but it was $5 at TJ Maxx on clearance with a $10 rebate. Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons get prices pretty low, too.
Before you go holiday shopping, compare prices online from home or with your smartphone. Check for online specials or coupons and free shipping options. Do the math–you might save money by having your items shipped free.
Check online outlets. Amazon is a must-stop for larger purchases, clothing, books, etc. You get free super saver shipping on orders over $25 at Amazon. Check daily specials, outlets, bargain bin and gold box prices. Frugal mama scored two pair of mens’ name brand skateboard shoes and a pair of winter boots for $60 with a $20 off coupon, free shipping, sales prices and Amazon Chase rewards card. Plus she got a free magazine subscription for her lucky husband.
Explore secondhand, thrift and exchange stores. Game Stop will buy, trade and resell Play Station, XBox, Wii and GameCube games and equipment. Check Goodwill and used toy stores for secondhand items in good shape. Frugal mama got a snowblower for $40 from Goodwill.
Check Dollar Tree, dollar stores, Family Dollar and Dollar General. Frugal mama has found similar items priced ten or twenty times less than other stores. Just make sure that you are getting equal quality with your savings.
Do your holiday shopping at TJ Maxx for unusual Christmas presents, specialty items. You get name brand and higher end items like Spode, Liz Claiborne, Steve Madden, Columbia, Tommy Hilfiger, Kuhn Rikon and others, much cheaper.
Use credit card rebate points to buy gift cards and give them as gifts. Keep balances paid, and you’ll make your money multitask getting points for purchases, buying gift cards and getting points for those gift card purchases.
Ask for gift receipts for returns and rebate. To get a rebate you have to send your receipt. Ask for a gift receipt so you have one to save for exchange just in case. Save receipts so people can return items, too.
Sign up for email savings from your favorite stores. Tanger Outlets is awesome about sending coupons for its many vendors. Some are universal coupons. Best Buy sends a lot of good coupons. You’ll also get free shipping offers, advance notice of sales and online specials if you sing up to receive email alerts.