With the holidays coming up, thoughts of family, food and gifts are front and center. Even the most budget-savvy among us may end up overspending on the right gifts for loved ones.
According to a survey by accounting firm KPMG, the average person is expected to spend $768 this holiday season, an increase of 5% over 2018.
Buying gifts for family and friends doesn’t have to leave you with a spending hangover, though. With the following tips, you can get the best price on any gift.
1. Sign up for price drop alerts
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get an alert when an item you want drops in price so you can jump on the deal? Well, now you can.
Google Shopping recently introduced a new tool that will do just that.
Also, if you shop Amazon, check out CamelCamelCamel.com. This Amazon-specific price tracker will email you when an item on your watch list drops to the price you want to pay, as we detail in “7 Free Tools That Will Save You More Money on Amazon Purchases.”
2. Beware fake list prices
Before you jump on a great sale, consider that the item may not be the bargain it seems. Even if it’s marked at 50% off, the regular price may be inflated. Some stores have been known to increase their “retail” prices to make you think you’re getting a bargain.
Before shelling out your hard-earned cash, research prices online to see how much an item is selling for at other retailers.
3. Pay with a discounted gift card
If you’re planning to spend money at a specific store, discounted gift cards can save you money.
Let’s say you buy a $100 gift card for $80. You then will effectively save 20% on any presents you purchase with that gift card.
4. Shop using a cash-back portal
Want to get money back for shopping? Cash-back portals like Rakuten (formerly Ebates), TopCashback and Swagbucks Shop, as well as the app Ibotta, will give you cash rebates on purchases made by reaching retailers through their websites or apps.
If you spend $1,000 on gifts this way and earn 5% cash back, that’s a free $50 in your pocket.
During the holiday season, some cash-back portals run promotions, offering you a higher payout rate than usual.
5. Pay with a rewards credit card
Using a rewards credit card won’t save you a lot but every little bit adds up. Let’s go with the previous example and say you spend $1,000 on gifts. If you use a rewards credit card that earns 2% cash back, you will get a free $20 without having to do anything.
If you already have cash-back points accumulated, you may be able to use them to buy gifts, depending on how your card lets you “cash out” your rewards.
Just make sure you pay off your credit card balance in full every month to avoid interest charges, as they can quickly cancel out any rewards you earn.
6. Know the return policy
Before buying a gift, check the store’s return policy. Many retailers change their return policies for the holiday season, so make sure the gift recipient will get the gift in time to return or exchange it if they don’t like it.
We highlight some of the best return policies in “7 Retailers With Especially Generous Return Windows.”
7. Let someone else do the bargain hunting for you
What if someone else could do the bargain hunting for you? This is exactly what Honey does. It’s a free add-on for web browsers that scours the web for the best coupons available for the website where you’re shopping.
Anytime you shop, Honey will automatically search for coupons and alert you if there is a better deal at another retailer.
8. Shop undercover
If you want to get the best price for something, you need to trick your computer. Some retailers use so-called web browser “cookies” to track your online shopping history and your location, and then hike prices based on that information.
To avoid paying a higher price due to tracking cookies, switch your web browser to private browsing or incognito mode, and clear your browsing history and cookies. As an extra step, sign out of all social media sites.
9. Try price matching
Many stores will match a competitor’s price if you can find a better deal. However, you will need to provide proof of the discount, such as the competitor’s current ad or the item on the competitor’s website.
There are even brick-and-mortar stores that match Amazon’s prices, which is handy when you want to buy a gift at the price Amazon sells it for but you don’t want to have to wait for it to ship to you.
Just keep in mind that some retailers’ price-matching policies have blackout dates on big sale days like Black Friday. So, you’re less likely to be able to take advantage of a price-matching policy on such days.
10. Get a refund
Don’t you hate it when you buy something and it goes on sale the next week? Many stores will refund you the difference between what you paid and what the sale price is if you contact them within a certain period after making the purchase.
This is where tools like Paribus can help. Paribus helps you save money by scanning your email inbox for receipts and then scouring the web for lower prices. If the price of something you buy drops, Paribus emails the retailer to request a refund of the difference on your behalf.
11. Don’t pay for shipping
Holiday shopping in your pajamas is convenient but can come with a downside — the cost of shipping.
However, around the holidays, many online retailers lower the minimum purchase threshold required to get free shipping. A few retailers, like Best Buy and Target, drop their minimum purchase thresholds altogether, offering free shipping on all purchases this time of year.
Retailers with brick-and-mortar stores often offer the option to buy an item online and then pick it up at a store to avoid shipping costs.
For more options, check out “5 Ways to Land Free Shipping When Shopping Online.”
12. Stack your savings
All these tips are great by themselves for saving money on a gift. However, to get the best price, you must “stack” your savings when possible.
For example, buy a discounted gift card with a cash-back credit card and shop via a cash-back portal such as Rakuten to rack up cash rebates.
What are your best tips for saving money on gifts? Leave a comment below or share your thoughts on our Facebook page.