9 Easy Ways to Cut the Cost of Holiday Shopping

These tools and tricks -- from browser add-ons to shopping on the right days -- can help you rein in spending on great gifts for loved ones.

Holiday shopperSyda Productions / Shutterstock.com

The holiday season is here, and Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other big shopping days are just around the corner.

Buying gifts for friends and loved ones can be a lot of fun. But if you aren’t careful, all that holiday cheer might evaporate when you get the credit card bill sometime after the new year dawns.

Fortunately, a little planning can help you find great deals that allow you to rein in your spending while also giving loved ones the gifts they deserve.

Following are nine easy ways to cut the cost of holiday shopping.

Purchase — or earn — discounted retail gift cards

Gift cardAndrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

Websites such as Cardpool and Raise sell gift cards at a discount. Plan to buy a Christmas gift for Fido? We recently saw Petco gift cards discounted for up to 13.5 percent off.

Over at Raise, we saw discounts of up to 12.2 percent for gift cards that can be used to purchase a computer or other items at HP.

Price breaks are great, but free is even better. Some sites ask you to perform specific tasks in exchange for points that can be cashed in for free gift cards.

For example, fill out surveys and participate in other activities at Swagbucks and you can earn free gift cards for popular retailers.

Browse stores and retailer websites on 4 special days

Black FridayPressmaster / Shutterstock.com

Each year, holiday shoppers can count on extra special sales on specific days. This year’s big days include:

  • Black Friday – Nov. 24
  • Small Business Saturday – Nov. 25
  • Cyber Monday – Nov. 27
  • Green Monday – Dec. 11

Keep in mind that these are not guaranteed to be the best days to get deals. Other days might be better for scoring bargains on some items. But if you plan to shop, it’s worth looking around on these four days for especially great discounts.

Order your gifts on Free Shipping Day

Holiday packageProstock-studio / Shutterstock.com

It usually does not pay to procrastinate. But holiday shopping might just offer an exception to that rule. Dec. 15 is Free Shipping Day. On that day, 125 retailers will offer free shipping with no minimum purchase required.

Even better, retailers participating in the event promise to have your gifts delivered by Christmas Eve.

Shop through a cash-back site

Holiday shopping onlinepetrunjela / Shutterstock.com

You can earn cash back on every purchase simply by visiting certain websites before you go shopping online. As we explain in “3 Websites That Pay You to Go Shopping“:

Cash-back portals receive a commission for referring online shoppers to merchants. When you buy something from a merchant that partners with a cash-back portal, the portal passes some of the commission on to you.

Ebates is one popular cash-back portal. Another such portal — Ibottaadded 30 retailers to its network in September.

Make it a habit to always stop at these sites before you shop, as they often offer new and enhanced ways to save every week.

Install tools to help you save online

Family at the holidaysbbernard / Shutterstock.com

Many websites offer tools that make it even easier to save when shopping online. For example, Ebates members who add the Cash Back Button extension to their browser will be alerted of any cash-back and discount opportunities to save every time they visit a retail website.

The Honey browser extension automatically finds and applies coupon codes for thousands of retail sites.

Join mailing lists and check the retailer’s Facebook page

Woman and giftsYuganov Konstantin / Shutterstock.com

A couple of the best ways to save on holiday gifts are to sign up for email alerts from a retailer or to download its app. In both cases, you’ll be alerted when new deals arrive. In addition, many retailers will offer a bonus — such as 15 percent off your first purchase — simply for signing up.

Keeping an eye on a retailer’s Facebook page is another great way to keep on top of special offers.

Compare prices on Amazon before buying

Amazondennizn / Shutterstock.com

America loves to shop on Amazon. But prices at the online retail giant change frequently.

To make sure you’re getting the best deal, turn to sites such as CamelCamelCamel and Keepa. These sites track prices on Amazon, and alert you when a better deal pops up on the items you want to buy.

Get sneaky with your shopping cart

Online shopping cartRawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

If you want to go the extra mile to save, try this little trick: Choose a gift or two at your favorite retailer’s website and add the items to your shopping cart.

Then, close the browser tab and walk away. As we explain in the story “5 Simple Ways to Save Money on Every Online Purchase“:

Online retailers track your every move. It’s undoubtedly distressing to them to see you pick out a cartload of stuff, only to close the tab and move along. That’s probably why you find a coupon code landing in your mailbox a day or two after you leave your cart.

Just make sure that you have an account with the retailer and that you are logged in when you try this technique.

Use a price-adjustment app

Mother and daughter at the holidaysYuganov Konstantin / Shutterstock.com

Sometimes, you think you’ve purchased an item at a great price. In reality, an even better price might emerge in the days or weeks ahead. And unfortunately, there is a great chance you’ll never even know about the deal you missed.

However, you can avoid this fate by using a price-adjustment app. For example, the Earny app tracks your purchases when a retailer emails you a receipt. If it discovers future price drops, it claims the difference on your behalf and sends you the money. For its trouble, Earny takes 25 percent of the refund.

Paribus is another price-adjustment app to try.

Do you have more tips for cutting the cost of holiday shopping? Share them by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

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

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