10 Holiday Shopping Tips

by Lynn Mahoney
Originally Published: 

It is so easy to get completely overwhelmed & carried away with holiday shopping and forget what the holidays (regardless of your religion) are all about. In case you forgot, the holidays are about FAMILY and GIVING and not STUFF, BILLS and STRESS.

Cue the cheesy holiday angelic music…”With a little bit of planning and organization we can make it through the New Year with love, smiles, relaxation and no mountain of debt.” BA HA HA – who am I kidding? There is nothing I can do about your holiday meltdowns, tears, obnoxious in-laws, ungrateful kids – you know, all the things that make the holidays grand… but I can help you SHOP.

So here you are, 10 Holiday Shopping Tips to Reduce Stress & Increase Savings…

1. DON’T BUY STUFF YOU CANNOT AFFORD. Seems simple enough… right? Yet this painfully obvious tip is the most overlooked – especially as we get all wrapped up in the holiday frenzy. This really is the number one and BIGGEST TIP I can give you. It reduces stress and increases your savings.

A deal is not a deal if you cannot afford it. You may save $100 on an item, but if you are charging them to credit cards with high interest rates, you may end up paying more in the end. Do not use credit cards to finance your holidays – it is never worth it in the end.

2. ESTABLISH A HOLIDAY BUDGET …and STICK TO IT! Whether you save all year with a Christmas fund or just decide how much you want to spend, it is important you have a PLAN. This is not only HOW MUCH, but WHO is on your gift list. Do you really still need to exchange gifts with extended relatives, friends, co-workers?

Also, make sure you fully understand the terms of any layaway agreement which can sometimes include hidden fees, strict pick-up times and does not allow you to take advantage of price drops.

3. DO NOT PAY SHIPPING. FREE shipping is a MUST and I highly recommend Amazon Prime with FREE 2-day shipping or Shoprunner (free with AMEX card). Both have FREE 30 day trials you can use for holiday shopping BUT if you do a decent amount of online shopping they can be worth the yearly cost in my opinion (and you can SHARE with other family members). Many other stores like Target and Walmart and more are also offering FREE shipping over the holidays.

Also stay tuned for FREE SHIPPING day – this year it is December 18th. That is typically the last day you can get ground shipping in time for the holidays so stores have sales, promotions and FREE shipping offers.

4. CUT BACK… WAY BACK. How many holiday gifts from last year were barely touched? We even have some toys that have not been opened yet – and yes I am considering re-wrapping them! Should we even discuss how kids have too much crap that they do not even take care of and how materialistic the world is getting? OK… we will leave that one for another day but as they say on SNL – REALLY?!?!?!

We decided a couple years ago to establish a new tradition to help that. Each child now gets… something they WANT, something they NEED, something to WEAR & something to READ. This not only structures the list, it also prevents the chase to have the same number of gifts for each kid. You know when you are “done” then find the “perfect” gift for one… which means you need to buy another for the others… and it never ends.

5. JUST SAY NO TO THE TRADITIONAL HOLIDAY GRABS. All of my nieces and nephews are getting older so we now have a grab instead of all the aunts and uncles buying for each one. That is a good use of the holiday grab.

But with office or friend grabs, be honest. How much money do you throw away buying useless grab gifts that meet a random dollar amount. Either cut them out all together or consider a theme you know everyone will like – exchange wine, restaurant gift cards, candles, event tickets, Christmas ornaments – something everyone wants. Better yet MAKE something or give the gift of your TIME or help.

6. MAKE versus BUY. Martha Stewart I am NOT, but with Pinterest you can get so many ideas for thoughtful, frugal gifts you can make yourself – YES even you and I, the creatively challenged types.

You can put almost anything in a mason jar, put a ribbon around it and it is instantly a thoughtful homemade gift! Better yet, offer to take someone’s kids so they can get away, make them dinner… remember it really IS the thought that counts.

7. LOOK FOR DISCOUNTS ON LAST YEAR’S VERSION. Yes we all think we need the latest and greatest but NOW is the time to find great deals on last years version of the iPod, iPad, Kindle, video games, cameras and more.

8. SHOPPING BLACK FRIDAY. Personally I do not recommend going to stores on Thanksgiving & Black Friday but I realize it is an Olympic sport for some. So if you have been training all year and love that adrenaline high make sure you are prepared. Most stores have already released their Black Friday ads online along with store hours, doorbuster limits, store layout maps and more. Do your homework, stick to your list and good lord smile and be in the holiday spirit!

9. SHOPPING ONLINE. Shopping online can get you most of the same Black Friday store deals (and some even better) without fighting the crowds and waiting in line with all the crazies (I mean all the joyous and friendly holiday shoppers). Besides if I miss a deal that sells out fast online, I am less pissed than if I waited in line for 2 hours for the only 50 available at the store.

Stores are already busting out the Black Friday prices now with online daily specials. You will see a BIG weekend coming up on the 22nd & 23rd to officially kick off the PRE-BLACK FRIDAY WEEK. Then midnight before Thanksgiving WHAMMO straight through to Cyber Monday – ROUND THE CLOCK DEALS. Amazon is a favorite with their Lightening Deals and they also spend the days price matching most other store’s deals.

Keep in mind that just because it is a Black Friday deal DOES NOT MEAN it is a good deal. Some of the best toy deals will come the 2nd or 3rd week of December. The best TV deals actually come the end of January.

Always look for coupon codes – look on the store site, on your favorite blog or just google the store plus “coupon code.”

10. PRICE MATCH! Many stores are price matching over the holidays; some to physical ads, some to online deals as well. Check all stores holiday price matching policy (typically posted on their websites) and be prepared before you shop.

Those are just a few tips that hopefully will make this shopping season a little brighter and more joyous. No need for stress and anger over missed deals. There is always another deal and always another sale. Besides if you run out of time, just throw something in a mason jar and call it a day.

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