How to save money while holiday shopping

Home for the Holidays

The holidays are about spending quality time with people you care about, not splashing the cash, so be thoughtful about gifts but don’t worry about their price tag.

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Is it possible to save money while holiday shopping? 

The holidays are about giving, but you shouldn’t have to empty your bank account and max out your credit cards to show your loved ones that you care. Learning how to save money while holiday shopping will let you have a fun-filled festive season without needing to worry about the repercussions in the new year. 

Some simple tips and tricks can help you generally rein in your budget, while recommendations for affordable holiday gifts offer some inspiration if you’re stuck on what to buy.

Tips for saving money while holiday shopping

Create a budget

Start by creating a holiday budget. It’s all very well to tell yourself that you’re going to try to save money on your holiday shopping this year, but if you don’t create a budget, it’s easy for things to get out of hand. Spend a few extra dollars here and there and it soon adds up. An affordable budget will look different for everyone. Some people will only have $10 to spend on each person they’re buying for while others will be saving money if they spend $100 rather than $200 on each gift. Luckily, you can find plenty of awesome gifts at all price points, so never feel bad about having a small budget. 

Don’t forget to budget for food, drink, decorations, Christmas lights and other extras you buy during the holidays. These can take you by surprise if you only budget for gifts and potentially leave your bank balance in the red. 

Make a list

When trying to save money on holiday shopping, you should always make a list and, yes, you should probably check it twice. First, list everyone who you want to buy for and order them by gift-giving priority. Obviously, at the top of the list will be the most important people in your life, while at the bottom would be people you’d like to buy for if you have the budget but are nonessential. You might find you can remove some recipients from the bottom of your list, as you might be considering buying them a gift for the sake of convention or to be polite rather than down to a genuine desire to give them a holiday gift. 

Next, write down what gift or gifts you’re considering buying for each person on your revised list. Making a note of every gift you want to buy can help you see where you might be overspending and can pare down. Come back to the list in a couple of days and go over it; this can stop you from impulse-buying gifts that offer poor value for money. 

Wait for sales

Unless you’re shopping at the last minute — which you should avoid if possible — it can be worth waiting to see if any gifts on your list drop in price or go on sale before Christmas. It might not be worth the risk on more affordable gifts that would realistically only ever fall in price by a buck or two. However, if you’re considering any big-ticket items, you could save hundreds of dollars by waiting for the right moment to buy. Consider signing up to the BestReviews email newsletter to get information on the best discounts, particularly if any big sale days, like Black Friday or Cyber Monday are coming up. 

Carefully consider potential purchases

Impulse buying is a surefire way to go over your holiday budget. Instead, you should carefully consider each purchase before buying, whether you’re shopping for holiday gifts, ornaments, drinks or anything else. Sleeping on a potential purchase is a good way of telling whether you really want to buy something. If buying it still feels like a good idea after you’ve waited 24 hours, then go ahead and buy it. 

Don’t always opt for the latest model

You can save a serious amount of money by choosing previous generation tech over the latest models. Sometimes there are huge advances from one model to the next, but often latest-generation items only have minor improvements that aren’t worth the significantly higher price tag. This is a particularly good tip when buying for kids or anyone else who won’t mind not having the latest tech. 

Best budget holiday gifts

Dash Mini Waffle Maker

Dash Mini Waffle Maker

Perfect for the keen cook in your life — or just someone who loves breakfast foods — this mini waffle maker turns out miniature 4-inch waffles. It’s easy to use and comes in a range of colors and prints.

Sold by Amazon 

JBL CLIP 3

JBL CLIP 3

This portable waterproof Bluetooth speaker is extremely rugged and produces high-quality sound for the size of the speaker. While this isn’t the cheapest option on our list, it offers excellent value for money and is especially great for teens, although music lovers of all ages will be impressed.

Sold by Amazon

Cards Against Humanity

Cards Against Humanity

The holiday gift that keeps on giving, entertaining the recipient over the holidays and far beyond. This might be a game but it’s certainly not for kids — or the fainthearted.

Sold by Amazon

Frank Body Shimmer Scrub

Frank Body Shimmer Scrub

Skincare fans and lovers of beauty products will enjoy this hydrating body exfoliant. This natural scrub features sugar and coffee grounds, plus a little eco-friendly festive sparkle.

Sold by Amazon

Back to the Roots Organic Mini Mushroom Grow Kit

Back to the Roots Organic Mini Mushroom Grow Kit

An affordable mushroom-growing kit that’s ideal for fungus-lovers and people with green thumbs. This kit is organic and non-GMO, which is perfect for earth-conscious growers.

Sold by Amazon

Stojo Collapsible Coffee Cup

Stojo Collapsible Coffee Cup

Great for eco-friendly coffee lovers who never seem to have room in their bag for a reusable cup, this collapsible offering folds down into a tiny disc for convenient carrying between uses. It’s available in various colors and sizes.

Sold by Amazon and Bed Bath and Beyond

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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