Watching Your Wallet During the Holidays

Now that we’re in the throws of December, the gift buying and giving season is in full swing, let’s talk about buying presents. A couple of weeks ago, I talked about gift giving and picking out the right presents for your friends and family. Today, I wanted to go over a couple of smaller tips that you can use to get things a little bit cheaper to help you keep the spending out of control.

Planning for Next Year

For next year’s holiday season, I HIGHLY recommend using a sinking fund and just putting 1/12 of the money you usually spend on gifts into a specific savings account every month. Then, when December comes around again, you aren’t scrambling for the cash or robbing your savings in order to give your family a nice holiday. For example, $1,000 to be spent in December would be less than $85/month. This is a much more achievable goal.

As you save money throughout the year, this will allow you to spread out the shopping as well. This can reduce stress and give you the time to really look for the presents that your loved ones really want. I know that if I’m down to the last minute, my bar for what’s a good present for my Mom drops, which is sad and unacceptable because she’s been my cheerleader for my whole life.

So, my wife and I start looking for presents in the summer to make sure that I’m giving a gift of value. Not something expensive per say, but something that adds value to the receiver’s life in some small way.

Shopping Online

There are many ways to save on items while shopping online. Here are some that I’ve personally used that have given me good results (no affiliate links):

Rakuten

Formerly Ebates, Rakuten combines coupons and cashback when shopping through their portal. All that you need to do is enter their portal first before clicking on the store/website you’re interested in buying from. Once the purchase is made, the coupons will be applied directly to the price of the item and the cashback automatically goes to your Rakuten account. Then it can be cashed out via Paypal or check.

The cash back portion of this can be a good way to kick off your gifts fund for next year OR put that money directly towards debt/savings. Treating the cash back as found money can be just an extra small boost towards your goals.

Price Trackers- CamelCamelCamel

Use Amazon? Most do when it comes to shopping online. With Camelcamelcamel.com you can just add in the item name or link to show the price history for that item and then set a threshold for what you would be willing to pay for that item. I use a kitchenaid mixer as an example below:

camelcamelcamel.com

As you can see in the screenshot above, the data shows that the price for this mixer is already under the average price for a new item. However, if you still wanted to wait for a deal, you could add in your email and say that you wanted a price alert when the price drops to say, $180. Then you would get an email alert when that happens so that you could go in and purchase that item.

If you really want to push the envelope, you could then buy the item through Rakuten and see if you can get more off of the price and some cash back!

Price Trackers- Wikibuy and Honey

Both of these last two tips are extensions for your browser. Wikibuy and Honey both will automatically add in coupon codes and deals for items in your shopping cart. Additionally, Wikibuy will show you if there are lower prices at other online retailers for that same item in your cart. These are both nice “set and forget” ways to save money.

Additionally, points are accrued with both sites that can then be reimbursed for gift cards. I’ve personally never done this as I don’t tend to shop enough to accrue the necessary point, but it is something to keep in mind.

Shopping In Person

When it comes to shopping in person, there are a lot less automatic ways to compare prices, but it can still be done. Here are some quick tips for shopping in person:

  • Bring a list and stick to it.
  • Check prices at other stores online (use your phone) as many of the bigger chains have a price match guarantee if you show them the lower price at checkout.
  • When in doubt about a purchase, lean towards no.
  • When shopping small, try to negotiate, especially if buying more than one item.
  • Check consignment shops for cool, one of a kind gifts.

I personally like shopping in person for most of my shopping as I can better tell the size of an item, the quality of it, etc. Also, my wife and I have been trying to shop smaller this year so that has also been a great way of going about it. You never know when you might find something completely original in a little shop you’ve driven by 100x, but never been in.

Gifts are Great, but…

The holidays are a great time to reconnect with family and friends. Many of these occasions are marked with giving gifts, but it’s important to keep in mind that that’s not really the point. So, if you just don’t have the funds available to give gifts this year, don’t fret. The people in your life who truly matter will not mind. A heartfelt card with maybe some homemade cookies is more than enough to make someone feel thought of, which is what all of this gift giving frenzy is really about.

Do you have any savings tips for the holiday season? Let me know in the comments below!

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