Holiday shopping can make you feel as if the “reason for the season” is emptying your wallet, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of ways to save money on holiday gifts, entertainment and dining out through the holidays. Sign up for Living on the Cheap daily emails, RSS feed, Facebook updates and/or Twitter feed so you’ll get the current deals and cheap holiday tips without having to search for them.
Here are some of my best shopping and giving tips to help you save money this holiday season while letting your friends and family know you care.
Shop Strategically Online
If you shop online, you can avoid the crowds and often get better deals. Here are my tips.
- Amazon: Before I purchase anything, I check to see if Amazon sells it for a lower price (it often does). Amazon offers free Super Saver Shipping for orders over $25, but the shipping takes longer, so be aware of time limits. You can also sign up for a free one-month trial of Amazon Prime to get FREE two-day shipping regardless of order price (and one-day shipping for only $3.99). Sign up around Thanksgiving and get free shipping until Christmas– just remember to cancel the trial (it’s easy to do in your account) or you’ll be charged $79 for a year. If you’re a college student with an .edu email address, you’re eligible for six free months of Amazon Prime (it’s $39 a year thereafter). If you’re a mom, dad or caregiver, you’re eligible for Amazon Mom – members qualify for three months of FREE Two-Day shipping with Amazon Prime, plus other discounts and deals. You can create shopping lists and wishlists throughout the year, which makes it easy to keep track of items you may want to give or to get.
- Ebates, Fatwallet, and ShopAtHome. These sites give you cash back for online shopping: 1% to 30%, plus additional coupon codes may be available. Before you purchase something online, log into one of these accounts and shop through their link to that online store. Not all stores are covered by each, so sometimes it helps to check each one for the best percentage. I’ve earned more than $250 in the last several years using cash-back shopping.
- Cyber Monday: Check out Cyber Monday deals across the web for Monday, November 26, 2012. Check out Cyber Monday 2012 for up-to-the minute deals.
- Free Shipping Day. Need some last minute gifts? Free Shipping Day is Monday, December 17, 2012. More than 2,000 retailers will be participating by offering free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve.
- Etsy.com: Handmade and unique gifts are my favorites to give and get. Etsy.com has millions of great gifts that can be narrowed down by categories, prices and more. Shipping costs are usually reasonable.
Craft Fairs and Unique Local Stores
If you’d rather shop in person, you can still save money. The first tip is to avoid the mall – unless you are going there for something specific that is a great price. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying too much and giving gifts with little creativity. Here are some better places to buy gifts:
- Craft fairs, art shows and community markets are fantastic places to get unique and inexpensive gifts. Check out your local Living on the Cheap site for information about local holiday bazaars and craft fairs.
- Buy local and unique. Columbus has some fantastic independent local shops that have both useful and unique gifts. If I can’t find what I’m looking for online, I like to browse these shops for inspiration. Plus, when you buy local, more of the money that you spend stays in your community.
- Chain discount stores offer a good selection and lower prices – but they aren’t quite as original. I prefer Marshall’s, TJ Maxx and Urban Outfitters for inexpensive gifts. If you must go to the standard big box stores, make sure you sign up for email updates and/or like them on Facebook so you’ll know about special “deals of the day” and sales.
Make Your Own Gifts
Be creative — homemade food and handmade items can be some of the most useful and unique gifts. There are tons of online tutorials for handmade and homemade gifts online. Join Pinterest for inspiration — it’s a virtual pin board for you to find and save ideas/recipes/favorite things, etc.
Examples I’ve given or received include homemade candy, baking/cookie mixes, jellies, homemade vanilla extract (tutorial coming soon), spicy peanut butter, wine and jewelry. Last year I made a bunch of recycled magazine bowls out of torn out magazine pages and added some wrapped goodies to the bowls.
Another thought is to give your “favorite things” or favorite treats. I did a “fun food” gift bag for a Yankee swap gift exchange last year that contained some local and fun foods and it was the most “swapped” gift of all. You could do all sorts of themes for this – for a foodie or someone learning to cook (favorite kitchen tools, spices, etc), Friend Bag (favorite lipgloss, chapstick, nail polish, files, bath products), etc. Creativity is often what makes a gift great, not money spent.
What are your tips for thoughtful holiday gifts on a budget?
If you liked this post, you might also like:
- 5 new shopping websites, apps promise best deals
- Small Business Saturday: Get $25 from American Express
- 7 gifts that keep on giving all year
- Sniff out ways to save at pet stores
- 6 tips for navigating dollar stores
- Craft store smartphone apps save money on the spot
- Gourmet food at bargain prices
- Save money and have fun at thrift stores
- How to save with price matching