Christmas shopping can start a vicious cycle. It’s easy to go crazy at the mall, and if you don’t have money set aside the gifts go on your credit card. In January, the credit card bills show up and it takes months to pay them off. By the time the bills are paid, it’s too late to start saving for next Christmas because the budget has been tight for so long. So you sigh and put the presents on the credit card again.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some easy ways to save money while Christmas shopping. The more tips you use, the more you’ll save!
Make a list.The list isn’t there to squelch your creativity, it’s there to make sure you don’t forget any people or events. This will save you from running to Target on Christmas Eve trying to find something--anything--for the people you forgot.
When you’re making your list, be sure to include teachers, the white elephant swap at work, etc. A couple of years ago, we showed up to the family Christmas dinner and found out they were doing a gift exchange game. We hadn’t brought anything and my mother-in-law scrambled around to find stuff we could use. Oooops.
Keep track of ideas.If a friend mentions a shirt they like or a book they’ve always wanted to read, jot it down. (I use Google Drive. You might prefer Evernote or *gasp* a pad of paper.) You’ll have time to shop around for the best price, and look like a superstar because you remembered!
Make gifts.My BFF is a busy executive who hates to cook. For Christmas, I make her a bunch of hearty freezer meals so all she has to do is heat and eat! Or you could make apple butter, vanilla extract, banana bread...check Pinterest for lots of great ideas.
Figure out a budget.And be realistic. Don’t overcommit or plan on money you don’t actually have. If you have 8 kajillion people to buy for, you may need to change your strategy. Buy a gift for the whole family instead of individual presents. Photos and homemade gifts from the kids go a long way with the grandparents.
Don't go to the mall.Besides the hassle of parking and crowds, you’ll either have to pay a sitter or bring the kids with you--which means you’ll also have to worry about snacks, naps, and gimmes. It’s hard to be an efficient bargain shopper when you’re wrangling munchkins and getting distracted by all the displays. So how do you shop without the mall?
Shop online.There are lots of ways online shopping can save you money. You won’t have to pay for gas running all over town. You can shop anytime, no matter what the weather is like or how the kids are behaving. You can compare prices between stores or use a site like Bizrate to do the comparisons for you. Remember to start your online shopping trips at eBates and get money back every time you shop.
Use what you have.Do you have a gift card for a store you’d never visit? Use it to buy a gift for someone else, or just pass the card along as a gift (don’t do this if it’s wallet-scuffed and icky looking).
Go thrifting.Don’t give me that funny look. Thriftstore shopping is pretty chic--plus it’s green and economical. I’ve found many brand new items, with the tags still on, just hanging there waiting to be nabbed. Or you could pick up a retro game like Perfection or Spirograph and bring back some fun memories.
Sew your own gift bags.Wrapping paper, tape, ribbon, gift bags, tissue...it all adds up. Christmas fabric is already on clearance, and for a few bucks you can make gift bags that will last for years. I happen to know of a fantastic tutorial right here.
Know when to hold ‘em...know when to fold ‘em.In other words, know when to buy and when to wait. For example: have your eye on something at Target? Here’s their corporate markdown schedule (confirm with your store to be sure).
Monday — Electronics, kids’ clothing, office supplies, cards, stationery
Tuesday — Women’s clothes, domestics, pets, Market (food items)
Wednesday — Men’s clothes, toys (also Thursday), health/beauty, lawn/garden
Thursday — Housewares, lingerie, shoes, toys, sporting goods, movies, music, books, decor, luggage
Friday— Cosmetics, housewares, hardware, jewelry, automotive
Make the interwebs work for you.Search online for coupons before you shop. Google “[store name] coupon code” or “[store name] promo code” and you might end up with free shipping, 10% off, or more! Check MoneySavingMom.com for great coupon/sale matchups. Also check stores’ coupon policies--JoAnn Fabric accepts Michaels’ coupons, and so on.
Are books, movies, or music on your shopping list? Check Half.com for great prices. You might get books from them with the black “remainder” mark on the pages--if so, just use some fine sandpaper or a nail file to scrub it off.