The holidays are always pricey even if you’re relatively frugal with gift giving. With expensive holiday meals, lights, decorations, and increased electric bills, it’s sometimes less the happiest time of the year and more the most expensive time of the year. While it’s always smart to cut down on your bills by choosing energy saving lights and options, you can save money on gifts as well. We asked for advice, and top finance bloggers had plenty to say about saving money over the holidays by cutting down on gift spending. Here’s what they had to say.
We all want to shop a little smarter, and two of the bloggers had great advice on just the subject.
Gretchen Lindow – Retired by 40 Blog: “The frugal version of celebrating the holidays: Celebrating the holidays is made more frugal for us by putting the emphasis more on the family and the “reason for the season” than on presents. We use the rule “one thing they want, one thing they need. One thing to wear, and one thing to read.” as the basis for how we shop. This drastically cuts down the amount we spend on gifts.”
Miranda Marquit – Planting Money Seeds: – “This year my siblings and I are trying something new since we have growing families. We are each drawing a name. We’re doing a kid drawing and an adult drawing, and so we only have to worry about buying one gift (well, two when you consider that my son will have to buy a gift for someone else) with a monetary limit.”
Gretchen and Miranda both have unique but useful ideas for saving money over the holidays. While both tips aren’t for everyone, they will allow you to cut back on spending, by either only buying useful gifts, or picking one person to give a gift to. This is especially useful for big families, where buying a gift for everyone can be overwhelming.
Set Spending Limits
How much is too much? Most of the bloggers thought you should sit down and figure that out before you go shopping.
Laurie – The Frugal Farmer: “Make a list of who you have to buy for and set a monetary limit for each person’s gift”.
Brian – Debt Discipline: “It’s also a good idea to talk to family and friend before the holiday and set an agree upon spending limit for each other. With spending limits in place you can have a good idea of your overall holiday gift budget.”
Andrew Schrage – Money Crashers: “Create a budget for your holiday gift giving, and try to come up with a number that won’t result in credit card debt. In addition, break that figure down into how much money you’ll spend on each person on your list – you won’t spend as much on your kid’s teacher as you will your Mom, for example.”
Kalen Bruce – Moneyminiblog.com: – “Set a reasonable budget. Just because your parents spent thousands on your Christmas, that doesn’t mean you must spend thousands on your children’s Christmas. Likewise, just because you didn’t have anything growing up, that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to make sure your kids do. It’s all stuff. Stuff turns into junk. And junk gets donated or thrown away, eventually. There are cheaper ways to express your love.”
Setting spending limits in advance also helps you to avoid impulse purchases, and ensures that you don’t accidentally go over budget. The bloggers here all have the same point, and it’s a good one. If you know how much you can spend, you can also narrow down gifts based on that price range, which can make choosing something easier as well.
Shop in Advance
Christmas sales often look like a good deal but are they? Especially when you consider the long lines and extra wait periods involved with end of the year shopping. Many of the bloggers had a different idea in mind.
Gretchen Lindow – Retired by 40 Blog: “The best ways to save money on presents during the holidays: I shop all year for Christmas! Typically, the best sales on everything are found mid-January to mid-February, and that is when I do the bulk of my shopping for the next Christmas. But even if you can’t shop during January, I visit the clearance section every time I’m in a store looking for items that will make great gifts for friends and family. Then I store all of those gifts in our guest closet and pull them out when Christmas rolls around.”
Kalen Bruce – Moneyminiblog.com: “Don’t wait until the holidays to start shopping. Sure, Black Friday deals are great, but you can find comparable deals year-round online.”
Andrew Schrage – Money Crashers: “Start your research (and possibly shopping) early – sales do start well before Black Friday.”
Shopping in advance might not work for everyone, especially not if you live in a small house or apartment, but with three bloggers agreeing that you can find great gifts on sale throughout the year, it’s a hard tip to ignore. Importantly, you’ll also be able to get gifts that won’t be available at Christmastime, which makes yours a little more unique.
Cut Costs on Gifts
Cheaper gifts are always available, even if you have to make them yourself. The bloggers recommended looking for ways to cut costs wherever you can.
Laurie – The Frugal Farmer: “Find ways to make gifts less expensive by doing gifts of time, service or (making) homemade gifts”.
John & David, Debt Free Guys: “Sites such as GiftCards.com and GiftCardGranny.com rotate discounts for gift cards at various retailers. Not only are they great resources to buy discount gift cards for stocking or envelope stuffers, but these discounted gift cards can be used by you to buy more gifts for less.
Use smartphone apps, such as RedLaser, ShopSavvy and NowDiscount to compare the price of an item at one store with the price of that item at all the stores near you by simply scanning a barcode. Better yet, even before you leave the warmth of your home, type the PLU number found on sites such as Amazon.com or in newspaper flyers into one of these apps for items you’re considering buying. This way you can map your route to only the stores with the best prices.”
Andrew Schrage – Money Crashers: “Use a deal sharing website like FatWallet to find out about holiday specials and discounts to save even more.”
Cutting costs any way you can is a sure way to save money according to all of the bloggers. Great gift items ranging from toys to electronics go on sale throughout the year, you can use a variety of recommended websites to find great deals now, and you can even save by cost comparing the gift you want to buy.
Prepare for the Season
Most of us think of Christmas as a time to fit buying gifts into our normal monthly budget, but the bloggers told us we’re doing it wrong.
Lazy Man and Money: “One of the best things you can do to buy holiday gifts without going bankrupt is to save some money throughout the year. Banks used to have Christmas Clubs that would make saving easy. Even putting a few dollars away each week can lead to hundreds of dollars come the end of the year. It might be too late to start for this year’s holidays, but why not start it for next year’s holidays? If you had done it last year, you’d have that savings for this year.”
Brian – Debt Discipline: “Some of the best ways to save money during the holidays is to plan and do your research. Make a list for everyone you plan on purchasing gifts for and note gifts ideas and spending limits for each. Once the list is complete you can research which stores and online retailers have the items with the best prices, free shipping, etc. Being organized will prevent you from impulse buying and overspending.”
If you haven’t saved up for Christmas then it’s going to hurt no matter what, unless you have auxiliary funds for if. If you’re on a tight budget this year, you can still plan to make sure you have enough money next year.
While the exact amount that you can save varies depending on how many people you’re shopping for, what you’re buying, and how much you spend, you can cut costs a lot using these tips. With careful planning, you can even purchase many gifts at 50% off or more, which can be a pretty hefty savings at the end of the year.
Do you have any money saving tips to cut costs on buying gifts? Let us know.
About the Bloggers
Gretchen Lindow, Retired by 40 blog: Gretchen is a writer, entrepreneur, personal finance nerd, and the founder of Retired by 40!, the blog dedicated to documenting her family’s journey towards early retirement. She is mom to a beautiful little girl, and husband to her soldier. When she manages to tear herself away from her work, she enjoys good books, hard workouts, and as much as sun as she can handle.
Lazy Man and Money was created in 2006 to help people learn how to make their money work for them. You can get to financial freedom faster by working smarter, not harder. Today, I provide commentary on money, consumer protection, and tips for early retirement.”
Rick & Laurie, The Frugal Farmer: Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.
David Auten and John Schneider are The Debt Free Guys who use their blog, Facebook, Twitter and books to help others become money conscious, live debt free and have fun. The Debt Free Guys have published three eBooks in the#MoneyConscious Series and a fourth, hard copy book called 4: The Four Principles of a Debt Free Life.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance journalist specializing in financial topics. She covers money-related subjects for a variety of outlets and has appeared in numerous publications including Huffington Post, AllBusiness.com, Forbes, NPR and U.S. News & World Report. Her blog is Planting Money Seeds.
Kalen Bruce is passionate about helping you master your finances and maximize your productivity. He defies millennial laws by having no debt and four children. You can get two of his books and two personal finance classics, all for free, at moneyminiblog.com.
Brian from DebtDiscpline is a personal finance expert and coach who is the founder of the blog Debt Discipline. Once gaining control of his family’s debt in 2010, and becoming debt free in 2014 he turned his focus to helping others.
Gary Dek, Gajizmo: Gary specializes in personal finance, blogging, investing and entrepreneurship.
Andrew Schrage is the co-owner of MoneyCrashers.com, which is a personal finance site dedicated towards providing readers with practical and valuable financial resources that they can implement in their daily lives. The site writes about everything from when to start saving for retirement to how to raise a family on a budget to the best cash back credit cards.