The holidays are right around the corner (where has the time gone?) and the sales are in full swing. If you’re like most people (myself included), you haven’t done a lick of shopping yet and your wallet is already crying for help!
We put together our 5 best tips for holiday shopping in the hopes that we can help you pull off Santa’s job without maxing out your credit cards!
Tip #5: Start shopping for Christmas supplies after Christmas
Unless you have a time machine, this one isn’t going to be much help this year, but it’s an invaluable trick for days of Christmas future. We spend lots of money every year on decorations, new lights, wrapping paper, you name it. And that stuff isn’t cheap!
We often overlook this pricey addition to our gift shopping, so cutting a chunk out of your preparation and supplies budget means more money for the presents! The best tip we’ve found is to start shopping the day after Christmas for next year’s supplies.
Sure, the stores will likely be mad houses on December 26th, but many of the “after holiday sales” last until the store sells out of Christmas decor, so you can still score great deals up to a week after the big day.
Two years ago, we scored a beautiful 8’ Christmas tree from Walmart on December 27th for half off. That was an almost $200 tree that we got for half the price. $100 instant savings over buying it in the peak season.
We also love to stock up on wrapping paper and gift boxes that usually close out for pennies on the dollar. If you’re thinking of changing up your theme next year, do the shopping right after Christmas and you can find a whole new set of decorations for a fraction of the price they sell for in November.
Tip #4: Don’t buy things just because they are on sale
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book for retailers, and if you’re anything like my mom you’ve fallen for it in the past. Retailers love to place items “on sale” to trigger that sense of regret in customers that makes you think “if I don’t buy it now, it’ll cost me more later!”.
While a noble sentiment, the sad truth is that many of the sales are for only a fraction off the price, or worse, retailers mark up the prices, then slash them back down to normal and claim it’s a “sale price”. Beware of products that you aren’t familiar with and try to find out what the normal, everyday cost usually is before you deem something as “on sale”.
Secondly, 90% of the items on sale are things you don’t really need or want. It’s almost an animal instinct that causes us to want to “catch all the sales” and really rack up on the savings, but at the end of the day you will likely find that you’re out that money and have gained no actual value in return. I have a box full of different colored scrap book paper in my closet that I bought on closeout because I “might want to start scrapbooking, and these papers are just a steal!”. But, at the end of the day, I’ve never scrapbooked and likely won’t begin to, so now I’m out the money and all I have to show for it is less storage space in my closet. Womp.
Instead, try to plan out the types of things you want to buy as gifts and then go looking for those. If you walk in with an empty list then you’re bound to get wrapped up in the marketing mayhem and you’ll end up leaving with a basket full of trinkets that no one really wants and a receipt full of low priced, but still not valuable, junk. Which brings us to....
Tip #3: Buy a few gifts that are meaningful, not a lot of gifts that are just meh.
This is a motto that my family has embraced for a few years now, and it really makes such a difference! For a lot of people, the number of gifts under the tree is what matters. But in reality, if you get a bunch of crappy gifts, you’re just going to store them or toss them and defeat the entire purpose of exchanging presents.
Instead, really try to narrow down and be specific about the gift that you get for someone. Make it something personal that relates to their likes, interests, passions, and life. Everyone has that one friend who “already has everything under the sun”. These are great people to really focus on to get a personalized gift for.
Using niche sites like Etsy, ThinkGeek, etc, let you find really off the wall but super specific gifts that can appeal to tons of different personalities. Shameless plug, if you know someone who just had a baby, why not get them an awesome, customized baby onesie? The possibilities are endless if you just put some time and thought into it.
Tip #2: Don’t go in without a budget and watch the deal sites
A beginner’s mistake in holiday shopping is not setting a budget for yourself. A $20 doo-dad over here, a $30 whatcha-ma-call-it over there, and before you know it you’re racking up hundreds in spend.
Sit down and figure out how many people you need to buy for, and how much you want to spend on each. Add it up and make sure you aren’t going to break the bank. Remember, your friends and family love you whether you get them an expensive gift or not (I hope) and they would hate to see you scrambling to pay bills all because you spent money on them.
Once you know your budget, try to beat it by really looking for those sales. Remember from Tip #4, though, don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. Only buy it if it’s what you really want to get and the price is right.
One of my favorite deal sites out there is Brad’s Deals. They collect sales and coupons from all over and post them daily on their website. I’ve found some really great steals on items that I had been searching for already, and was able to save a chunk of change.
I’ve also just started playing around on the Wish app. A lot of their items seem, well, fishy at first, but if you take your time and read through you can find some real gems. I got a great collection of Rick and Morty stickers for an office mate, and I’m waiting on some other little desk decorations that I know my friend is going to love and I only spent a few dollars on them.
Tip #1: Stop buying for everyone
You can avoid wasting money on pointless sales, watch all the deal sites, and really put thought into a few gifts instead of a whole heap of them, but the fastest, quickest way to save money is to stop buying gifts for everyone.
My family-in-law does a great little game where we draw names in early November and that decides who we buy gifts for. We also set a budget on the gifts (can’t be over $40, for instance) so that everyone gets an equally awesome gift and no one has to spend too much money.
At the end of the day, everyone gets a gift, your stress level drops because you have to brainstorm for fewer people, and you end up saving tons of cash in the process.