How to save money during the holidays
Money doesn't grow on Christmas trees.
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
The holidays can wreak havoc on any budget. And if you’re one of the millions of Americans who have been laid off during the pandemic, you’ve probably been trying to tighten the purse strings—and bracing yourself for more debt with Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other celebrations around the corner.
These concerns are indeed justified. According to the National Retail Federation, folks plan to spend an average of $997.79 this season. While it’s less than the $1,047.83 spent in 2019, a thousand bucks is a lot of money, especially if your household income has taken a hit. And the numbers could be even bigger for those with a large family.
No matter your situation, the holidays don’t have to be canceled, nor do you have to play the role of Scrooge to save. Here’s several tips on how you can save money on your holiday expenses.
Set a budget with specific dollar amounts—and stick to it
Help yourself big-time by creating a list of everything you anticipate spending money on during the holidays. This could include presents for your family and friends and co-workers, but don’t forget about gift wrap, holiday cards, stocking stuffers, and any food or attire for festive gatherings—even if they’ll be held virtually this year. You’ll also want to budget for end-of-year gifts and tips for your postal worker, hair stylist, teachers, and other front-line workers who you want to show your appreciation for.
A general budget with loose spending limits will only help you so much. More importantly, come up with a few gift ideas and assign specific dollar amounts to each person on your list. Who will be receiving a gift of no more than $25? And who might receive a gift that’s closer to $30, or under $50?
With a bit of research and prep, you can find some great presents, no matter your budget. Wishing someone could do the heavy lifting for you? Check out Reviewed’s gift guides for the home cooks, tech lovers, fitness buffs, and everyone else on your list.
Lastly, creating a spending plan for all your holiday-related expenses is one thing, but you’ll want to adhere to it. If you might be tempted to overspend during Black Friday or Cyber Monday, do your research beforehand so you head in with a game plan.
Start shopping earlier than usual
If you can, shop early. You'll not only can swoop in on mega discounts throughout the end of the year, but it’ll also spread out your spending. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a spending frenzy and suffer from a holiday debt hangover.
Besides taking advantage of deals, retailers recommend getting a head start to make sure you get what you want. With predicted product shortages, popular items will most likely sell out. Plus, you can expect shipping delays this year.
The good news: You don’t necessarily have to wait until Black Friday to snag the best deals of the season. This year, keep an eye out for extended sales to start saving in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and beyond. Here are just a few savings you can scoop up early, but there are plenty of others to browse, too.
- Amazon is holding Holiday Flash Deals leading up to Black Friday.
- Best Buy is hosting deals throughout November, and will match some prices if they drop before December 25, 2020.
- The Home Depot has already started offering major discounts. Download the retailer’s app, and you can preview the deals before they’re live.
- Macy’s has kicked off some mega deals.
- Target is announcing new deals every week, and will match some prices if they drop by December 24, 2020.
- Walmart announced three separate sales leading up to Black Friday.
Don't forget about price adjustments
A handful of major retailers—think Anthropologie, Kohl's, and Nordstrom—also offer price adjustments if you find that an item goes on sale shortly after you've purchased it. The window is generally two weeks, though some stores offer an extended period during the holidays. Just keep your receipts handy—consider opting for email versions if you’re shopping in person—or have your credit card statement readily available to pull up on your phone.
Put your credit card rewards to work
If you’ve been racking up cash-back points on your credit card throughout the year, you can put those rewards toward holiday shopping. Consider stacking them with any points through platforms that reward you for shopping such as Drop and browser extensions like Honey.
Take advantage of purchase protection
Some major credit card issuers such as Capital One, Chase, and Bank of America offer purchase protection on some of their cards. In this case, should an item you bought with the card gets stolen or damaged, the cost of replacement should be covered. This could come in handy on big-ticket items, or gifts you’ll be shipping to friends and family. In turn, it could prevent you from losing money on a purchase should a theft or accident occur.
Go DIY with wrapping
Those fancy bows, shiny wrapping paper, gift tags, and other festive flourishes can add up quickly. Instead of spending a boatload on gift wrap, opt for a brown kraft paper and go to town with DIY decorations.
It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate—a pattern of brushstrokes or dots could do the trick. If you have stamps or stickers on hand, you can add flair that way, too. Then, use some baker's twine to put on the finishing touches.
If you're gifting stocking stuffers or smaller items, consider decorating a glass jar or plastic container with rub-on transfers, glitter, or puffy paint. Then carefully place the gift inside, and wrap inexpensive ribbon around the neck.
Scour bartering groups instead of buying gifts
You can join a local Buy Nothing group for holiday gift wrap, ornaments, home decor, stocking-stuffer trinkets, attire for those holiday parties on Zoom, cards and envelopes, shipping boxes and material, and even brand-new packaged goodies. If there’s a Buy Nothing group where you live, it might be worthwhile to check out the Facebook group, where the bartering takes place virtually.
Create a basket of goodies for the entire family
Now that many of us are at home the majority of the time, get your cottagecore on by baking brownies or peppermint fudge. You might come up with a theme, and send over sweet and savory snacks so that you and your gift recipients can throw a Netflix Party night while they enjoy the spoils you made.
Just because your wallet might be lighter than previous years doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the festivities. It'll take a little planning and creativity, but there’s a lot you can do with what you have—without more bills stacking up.