Don't be a Grinch: These 9 Holiday Shopping Tips will Save you Money
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7 Holiday Shopping Tips That Will Save You Money

  • Americans are planning to spend $936 each on Christmas gifts this year.
  • Determine how much you want to spend on your friends and family during the holidays.
  • Shop online and make sure to hunt for discount codes.

With the holidays underway, many of us are busy preparing for our favorite time of the year. But for those of us who need to buy gifts galore, it’s tough not to feel closer to “bah-humbug” than Christmas cheer…

And we’re right to feel that way. Recent data shows that American consumers plan to spend an astounding $936 each on Christmas gifts this year, with an additional $140 in gifts for themselves.

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No matter who you are and what kind of budget you’re working with, that’s a lot of money. But with the holiday season so entrenched in our everyday lives, is there anything we can do about it?

7 Tricks To Stick To Your Budget Without Being A Grinch

If you’re intent on sticking with standard holiday tradition, then it might be tough to uncover any real savings. But if you’re willing to change things up a bit, you can whittle your holiday budget down to a very manageable sum. Just start with these seven strategies, and you’ll be on your way to a holiday that is a little lighter on the wallet:

1. Make a Budget & Get Online

The first step to making sure your holiday shopping spree doesn’t go overboard is setting a budget. Decide how much you can spend this season, and how much that breaks down to per person. Once you’ve done that, get online and start deal hunting! It’s not just Black Friday and Cyber Monday (which you may have noticed has turned into Cyber Week at some stores) that throw deals your way anymore. Most big retailers have sales all through December, so get on their email lists and hunt for deal codes ate the tops of their websites. If you can score a deal for the majority of the folks on your gift buying list, you’ll have a nice chunk of change to throw in your retirement savings account at the end of the month.

2. Quit Buying For Family & Friends You Don’t See

You don’t want to come off as a holiday Grinch, but you also don’t have to buy a gift for every person you’ve ever known. If your gift list includes second-cousins, old neighbors, and people you just never see, it might be time to reassess.

If you decide to quit buying for certain people, send them a thoughtful holiday card instead. And if you feel the need to, let them know that you cut back on spending this year. Most people understand, and they won’t hold it against you.

3. Give Cash Or Gift Cards

Buying every person on your list the “perfect gift” gets expensive, and the prospect can easily make your budget balloon out of control. Giving cash, on the other hand, is the perfect way to stick to your budget down to the penny – especially if you’ve got nieces, nephews, or grandkids on your list. And it saves a lot of time to boot.

If cash is too impersonal, go with a gift card to the recipient’s favorite store instead. Most people love receiving a gift card to their favorite retailer, restaurant, or boutique anyway. And with cash or gift cards, you’ll never have to worry about your gift being returned.

4. Opt Out Of Gift Exchanges

Holiday gift exchanges are the ultimate end-of-the-year budget killer. Whether they’re for your office party, family get-together, or friend, participating can cost a bundle – especially if you have to endure more than one.

No matter what anyone says, it’s perfectly acceptable to opt out of gift exchanges that aren’t already established with your immediately family. And even then, you might be able to talk close relatives into renegotiating holiday tradition. You’ll never know unless you ask.

5. Keep Track Of All Holiday Spending

Whether you stick to cash or do all of your shopping with a credit card, you’ll want to keep track of your holiday spending from the beginning. If you have a holiday budget already made, one easy strategy is to carry it with you when you shop (or store it in your phone) – making notations when you purchase a gift for someone, and how much you spent on it.

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By keeping track, you can see how much you’ve spent so far – and how many more gifts you need – at any time. Further, an ongoing list will help you make sure you don’t forget to add any important folks to your list.

6. Search for Coupon Codes & Sales

Even if you skip Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you can still find plenty of holiday deals. Top retailers are constantly announcing sales throughout the holiday season, and you can also hunt for printable coupons on store websites, online coupon outlets, or email promotions.

One such online outlet is Check out the site before your shopping excursions, and you can often find online coupon codes to apply to your cart when you check out with various retailers. The bottom line: whether you’re shopping in the store or online, it’s worth checking around for discounts. A lot of the time, you can snag up to 40% off with little effort on your part.

7. Use Credit With Care

If you prefer using plastic for holiday spending, make sure you do it the right way. Instead of buying all of the gifts your heart desires, remember that every dollar you charge will need to be paid back – and if you take a while, that means interest on top of your balance each month.

While credit cards can come with valuable perks like rewards, extended warranties, and purchase protection, using one makes it easier to overspend if you’re not careful. So, if you opt for credit, be extra diligent about sticking to your budget and tracking every purchase. If you don’t, your post-holiday bill might come back to bite you.

The Bottom Line

If you’re already dreading how the holidays could impact your bottom line, the time to start planning is now. By creating a holiday budget and setting some ground rules, you’ll be on your way to whittling down your holiday spending down to a very reasonable amount. And remember, being a holiday Grinch and practicing mindful spending are two entirely different things.

Did you create a holiday budget this year? Why or why not? How do you set spending boundaries with others?

The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.

Holly Johnson is a financial expert and award-winning writer whose obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel plays a central role in her work. In addition to serving as Contributing Editor for The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for inspiring publications such as U.S. News and World Report Travel, Personal Capital, Lending Tree, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns two websites of her own - Club Thrifty and Travel Blue Book. You can follow her on Twitter or Pinterest @ClubThrifty.
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This year, my top financial priority is:

Building my emergency fund
Paying off high-interest debt
Budgeting better
Saving for a short-term goal, like a vacation or new car
Increasing my investment contributions
Maintaining status quo - I’ve got this under control

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