15 Easy Ways to Save Money on Christmas This Year
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When I think of Christmas, I think of sipping hot cider at my grandfather’s house, watching my little cousins play with their new toys, and spending time with my dear ol’ dad.
But when you’re struggling to get by or working toward bigger financial goals like paying off debt or saving for an emergency, all you can think about sometimes is how to save money on Christmas. It’s hard to stay on track with your goals when the temptation to spend is all around.
According to a recent US News & World Report survey, 42% of people expect to go further into debt for holiday spending.
But the good news is, debt isn’t the only option.
15 Easy Ways to Save Money This Christmas 🎄
You don’t have to spend a fortune to give your loved ones a special Christmas. Here are some ways to save money on Christmas shopping while still checking off everyone on your list.
1. Earn cashback on your online purchases
If you’re determined to purchase Christmas gifts for your loved ones, you can absolutely do so without breaking the bank. It also helps when you scoop up rewards each time you shop online.
If you shop at Walmart, Macy’s, Kohl’s — or any popular retailer, really — odds are you can save in several different ways. Browser extensions and cashback apps are the two of the most simple.
DollarSprout Rewards is perhaps the most simple of all. As long as you have the Chrome or Safari browser extension enabled (desktop only), it’ll scour the web for the best deals and coupons it can find. Plus, you’ll often get 1% to 5% cash back on many of your purchases at over 15,000 retailers.
It’s completely free to use and there’s no catch or credit card required. Simply set it up and get free cash back, forever.
2. Use discounted gifts cards
Any time you’re shopping online or in-store, make sure to check for discounted gift cards on sites like Raise.com.
The premise is simple: people don’t want or need a gift card from a particular retailer, so they sell it to Raise for cash, who then flips it on the open market.
For example, someone has a $100 Lowes gift card they know they’ll never use, so they sell it to Raise for $85. They get cash for the card, even if it isn’t at face value, and they go on their merry way.
Raise will then flip it — for more money, of course — to interested parties that need a Lowes gift card.
The flat discount rate you see in green is what Raise is currently offering for Lowes, but those percentages can reach as high as 30% at other retailers.
They’re also currently offering several promotions that can further pad your savings. A free $5 if you refer a friend, and a 10% off (up to $20) when you make your first gift card purchase.
If you know you’re buying a gift at a particular retailer, you can now theoretically triple dip on all your purchases. (Rewards browser extension, cashback card, and discounted gift card).
In just this example alone, you can get 2.7% off the card, $5 for referring a friend, and 10% more off since it is your first card. All of a sudden a $100 Lowes card only sets you back $87, and that’s before you use a browser extension and/or cashback credit card on the eventual purchase.
3. Be wary of marketing tactics
Neuromarketing has made tremendous advances in the last twenty years. Unfortunately, you — the unsuspecting Christmas shopper — are usually the victim of those advancements.
Advertisers use all sorts of tactics to get consumers to open their wallets.
One-time offers, BOGO deals, free shipping on orders over “X”, time-sensitive “deals”, flashy colors and beacons on websites, remarketed coupons sent to your email, or that pesky Facebook ad you keep seeing.
They’re all designed to get you to spend, not save, money. Advertisers recoup the savings they offered you in one of many dozens of ways. They’re the ones coming out ahead here. Resist the temptation to spend more on things you normally wouldn’t have bought just because something seems like a deal.
4. Celebrate Christmas for 12 Days
Christmas gifts don’t have to be wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree. In fact, spending quality time together as a family, couple, or friends can be even more meaningful than presents.
If you plan free family gatherings, movie and game nights, and celebrate the magic of Christmas for multiple days, everyone will feel like Christmas is much more than just one day.
Spend time together as a family. Go Christmas caroling, drink hot cocoa, and tell Christmas stories. Christmas is far more than opening a few presents on one morning of the year.
Here are some other cheap or free activities to spread over 12 days of Christmas:
- Make and decorate Christmas cookies together
- Drive around neighboring towns and enjoy Christmas lights
- Go window shopping at the mall
- Make DIY crafts and gifts for family and friends
- Decorate your house for Christmas
- Read Christmas stories
- Watch Christmas movies
- Go Christmas caroling at the nursing home
- Write letters to Santa or visit him at the mall
- Have Christmas-themed family game night
- Watch for other local free Christmas events in your area
5. Go for practicality over price
If money is tight, then purchasing needed items for each person on your list will allow you to put something under the Christmas tree while still respecting the budget.
Unwrapping a new toothbrush, gloves, or slippers can be just as exciting as unwrapping a new toy. It’s the surprise element and the love behind the gifts that most children truly appreciate.
“Needs” that make great gifts:
- Personal care items
- Educational books
6. Write down your own “nice” list
Just like Santa does, curate your own list of people who make the “nice” list. Metaphors aside, writing things down helps you save money on Christmas in several ways.
First, it’s more likely you won’t forget about someone. Awkward.
Second, a list allows you to plan your purchases ahead of time. A secret weapon against impulse spending, especially if you have the tendency to overspend.
Lastly, a list helps you visualize who all will be getting a gift, and set an anticipated budget for each person. Rather than browse through stores and pull the trigger on the first item you find, no matter the cost, having a preset budget guides to the plausible gifts that fall within that range.
7. DIY the gift wrapping
Have you ever noticed how expensive wrapping paper and gift bags can be? Instead of purchasing new gift wrapping this year, try reusing gift bags from previous years.
Another option to really save on gift wrapping is to decorate newspapers with bright markers or paint to wrap gifts. Have the family help and make this one of your 12 days of Christmas activities!
If you’ve run out of time, you can even go with the black-and-white look of plain newspaper or use the comics section. Add a fun bow or ribbon if you have something around the house.
More ideas for gift-wrapping substitutes:
- Construction paper
- Paper bags
- Decorated scrap paper
- Fun patterned scraps of fabric
- Layered plastic tablecloths
- Blankets or sheets
- Unwrapped gifts placed in decorative baskets from thrifts stores
8. Look for social media exclusive offers
Brands will frequently offer deals to their most loyal social followers (their repeat buyers!). Occasionally check your favorite retailers around the holidays for deals that don’t require a minimum purchase or something in return.
Retailers count on consumers to bite off more than they can chew when it comes to shopping online, but if you can stick to your guns and select only Christmas gifts you were on the market for, a social freebie is never a bad thing — especially if you can unfollow or mute their notifications after the holidays are over.
9. Buy gifts in bulk
If you have a lot of people to buy presents for, try buying items in bulk to save some extra money on Christmas gifts.
Food or snacks are often a crowdpleaser when purchasing gifts for large groups of people. Whether you have a large family, a crowded office, or a lot of friends on your Christmas list this year, food items are very reasonably priced when purchased in bulk.
Ideas of items you can purchase in bulk to save money:
- Fun socks
- Bath bombs
- Art supplies
10. DIY your gifts
It might be time to get creative. If you’re pressed for gifts but just can’t come up with the funds, a small DIY gift could be the answer.
Anything DIY can appear elaborate while not costing much. You can even have the kids make things for each other and for extended family and friends.
Here are a few DIY Christmas gifts to try:
- Mason jar recipes (cookies, bread, trail mix, etc.)
- Homemade candles
- Home or office decorations
- Knitted scarves
- Fragrant soaps
- Homemade snack boxes
- Bath bombs
- Movie night gift basket
- Homemade board games
- Handwritten or printed coupon book
11. Organize a Secret Santa gift exchange
The only thing that beats personally saving big bucks on Christmas is when your entire family gets to save big bucks too.
I have my living parents and two siblings. Each sibling has a partner and multiple kids. We’re talking over a dozen gifts if I were to purchase even something small for every member of my immediate family.
Fortunately, they share my same penchant for penny-pinching, and for years now we’ve thrown names in a hat, and buy whomever we draw an anonymous gift.
It’s literally the perfect scenario. One gift instead of a dozen. Anonymity so there’s no pressure to overspend. And lastly, a ton of humor as we open the gifts in front of one another around the holidays.
This likely saves each of us hundreds of dollars, everyone gets a gift, and we get to spend quality time together.
12. Shop around for lower prices
If you prefer to shop in-store this Christmas season rather than online, that’s okay. You don’t need to shop online to get good deals.
Visit a few stores and compare prices. Saving $5 on gifts here and there really adds up when you have multiple people to shop for. You might find that the same toy is $40 at one store and $35 at another.
13. Shop secondhand
When you think of thrift store items, you probably imagine broken toys, games with missing pieces, or clothes with holes in them. But many people donate new or slightly used items to thrift stores.
Browse your local secondhand shops and look for items that your loved ones would appreciate. If something is of nice quality but doesn’t have a tag on it or shrinkwrap around it, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad gift. Think of ways to wrap the item so it’s more presentable and fun.
Shopping for secondhand gifts is an amazing way to buy Christmas presents without spending exorbitant amounts of money.
Ideas for secondhand gifts:
- Scarves & Gloves
- Home decor
Related: 74 Creative Ways to Save Money
14. Donate your time, not necessarily your money
If you’re in a financial position to give back, I encourage that. But in the absence of surplus, giving your time to someone in need could be the greatest gift they receive this Christmas season.
Better yet, forego the costly family outing everyone had planned — for just this one year — and donate that time and money to someone in need.
You’ll make memories that will last a lifetime, help someone less fortunate than you, and emulate selflessness to the younger eyes in the family.
15. Be honest with your loved ones
If it comes down to purchasing gifts for extended family and friends or feeding your family, you need to draw a line. Skip Christmas gifts if they’re not in the budget this year.
If you’re able to purchase cheap gifts for your immediate family that double as “needs” this year, then that’s great. But simply tell your extended family, friends, and coworkers that you would prefer not to be included in gift exchanges this year if possible.
Don’t let gifts put you into debt. Your loved ones will understand.
Cheap Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Care
Whatever season in life you may be going through, know that it’s okay to cut back on spending. Christmas will come and go this year as it always does and spending time with your loved ones is all you need to make it a wonderful holiday.
These ways to save on Christmas will help get you through the season. Do as much as you can for your family, but always remember that saving money on Christmas gifts can be done without making a dent in the joy that comes with the Christmas season.