8 Ways to Save on Holiday Shopping — Right Now

Photo (cc) by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar

In 2012, Americans’ daily spending averaged $119 the weekend before Christmas – the highest three-day average for the holiday season and the year — proving that a lot of people wait until the last minute to finish their holiday shopping. But waiting until the 11th hour is far from ideal. You won’t have time to comparison shop online, you’ll miss out on some of the best sales of the year, and you’ll probably end up paying full price.

The best way to save money this holiday season is to start early, and we have tips to help you get organized and done well before the final weekend.

1. Set a budget

Set a gift budget — a limit on the total you’re going to spend — before you start shopping. Otherwise, having all that extra time to browse may cause you to spend more than you wanted. Once you have a budget, make purchases in cash over the next few months so you won’t be tempted to reach for the plastic.

2. Make a list

I am always overzealous in my Christmas shopping. If I could, I would send a gift (or at least a card) to everyone I’ve ever met. To combat my holiday generosity, I narrow down the list of people I’m giving gifts to. Then I decide how much I want to spend on each person within the limits of my budget. For example, I usually get smaller gifts for co-workers and more expensive gifts for my family. Finally, I double-check to make sure it all fits into my budget. This way, I don’t forget anyone and I don’t overspend.

3. Pre-order for a discount

If you want to buy a gift that isn’t out yet – like a book, movie or video game – you might get a discount by pre-ordering. For example, I pre-ordered “Dog Shaming” (the companion book to the popular website) for $9 on Amazon. When it’s released, the book will retail for $15 on the site. So I saved $6 and knocked a gift off my list.

4. Shop clearance bins

If you’re not sure what to buy someone, start browsing clearance bins. You can usually find a clearance section year-round at most national chains. Clothing retailers typically hold clearance sales at the end of seasons.

5. Plan a Secret Santa

With Secret Santa, you put names into a hat and everyone draws one name. That way everyone gets a gift (anonymously) and everyone has to buy only one. It is a great way to save money and make the holiday more special, but it’s also something you have to plan in advance. Luckily, you’re starting early this year.

6. DIY small gifts

Homemade gifts feel more special, and they’re usually cheaper than store-bought options. For example, last year I saw scarves for $24 each that I thought would make great gifts. Instead of buying them, I knitted them myself for $7 each. I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off if I hadn’t started my holiday shopping early.

7. Take advantage of holiday sales

You’re well aware of Black Friday, but, according to Dealnews, it’s not the best holiday shopping day for major discounts. Thanksgiving — the day before Black Friday — is. Dealnews says:

Thanksgiving Day in both 2011 and 2012 saw the highest percentage of Editors’ Choice deals throughout the season, with a combined average of 36 percent. Thanksgiving Day even beat out Black Friday itself, which clocked in at 32.5 percent Editors’ Choice. Perhaps more surprising though is that even the Sunday before Cyber Monday topped Black Friday, albeit by a very small margin: 33 percent of all deals were Editors’ Choice. That Sunday also thoroughly crushed Cyber Monday, the latter of which saw the lowest percentage of Editors’ Choice deals of the four days, coming in at 27.5 percent.

However, Dealnews points out, you need to track the prices of the items on your list because they might not be among the merchandise that sees the best deals during that shopping week.

8. Buy cheaper gift cards

If you’re planning on buying gift cards this year, don’t wait until the last minute and pick them up at the store. You can save money by shopping at gift card resellers online. Check out Cardpool and GiftCardRescue.

Karen Datko contributed to this report.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
5 Ways to Put an End to Junk Mail
5 Ways to Put an End to Junk Mail

Here’s how to keep unwanted mail from clogging your mailbox and trash can.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

5 Simple Steps to an Awesome Retirement
5 Simple Steps to an Awesome Retirement

The path to your dream retirement begins with these five steps. How many have you already taken?

8 Reasons Your Parents Had an Easier Retirement Than You Will
8 Reasons Your Parents Had an Easier Retirement Than You Will

Here’s why the last decades of life are harder now than they used to be.

17 Amazon Finds Under $20 That Will Organize Your Life
17 Amazon Finds Under $20 That Will Organize Your Life

We’ve rounded up must-have products to help you get your ducks in a row.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.