Coupon Sherpa Blog

100 Holiday Shopping Tips from Our Favorite Personal Finance Experts

It's official: The holiday shopping season has begun and this week's Black Friday chaos is sure to put people in the spending mood. With tight budgets and a ticking clock, it's tough to know how to satisfy your holiday gift list without overindulging your bank account.

That's why we asked top personal finance experts and bloggers for their best money-saving advice. Together, they came up with 100 unique tips to keep costs low and spirits high this holiday season.

  1. "Put needs on your kids' holiday gift wish-lists, not just wants, to relieve some of the pressure on your budget during the rest of the year." - Laurie, "TheFrugalFarmer.net
  2. "Look for real value. Sometimes the doorbuster deals are items of lesser quality. They might not be the best bang for your buck, even if they are cheap." - Miranda Marquit, PlantingMoneySeeds.com
  3. "Sign up for your favorite retailers e-mail lists. You can create a separate e-mail so that your personal e-mail doesn't get bombarded by these e-mails." - Michelle, MakingSenseofCents.com
  4. "Use Pinterest's GIFTS section to search out inexpensive but thoughtful gifts. Pin your favorites and use the Pinterest price drop notification to get an alert when a certain product has dropped in price." - Carrie, CarefulCents.com
  5. For local friends, we bake cookies all day on a Saturday and give deliver them in person. Cheaper and more fun than going to a store." - Aaron Crowe, Personal Finance Writer, AaronCrowe.net
  6. "If you have access to large amounts of recyclables (like living in a dorm or apartment building) grab people's rejected cans and bottles to start a holiday party or present fund." - Erin, BrokeMillennial.com
  7. "Instead of excessively spending on each other this year, join together with family members to help those who may be less fortunate. You can find opportunities at websites for Oxfam International and ACCION." - Stephanie, PracticalMoneySkills.com
  8. "Do your research on what you want to buy and don't be fooled by the lure of a 'sale' price. This saves you time as you can map out your shopping strategy. Plus, you can check the ratings and quality of what's on sale." - Glen, FreeFromBroke.com
  9. "Before you head to the store make sure you download a price comparison app (example would be Amazon Price Check). This will allow you to make sure you are getting the best possible deal." Sean, OneSmartDollar.com
  10. "I value experiences more than stuff. I buy an overnight trip somewhere; or a nice dinner; or tickets to Disneyland. I normally discuss this with the people I'm buying for well in advance and the arrangements are made long before Black Friday." - Kathy Kristof, Author of "Investing 101,” KathyKristof.com
  11. "Don't assume the best sales are on Black Friday. If you keep watching prices, you'll find deals that are as good or better throughout the rest of the year." - Paula, AffordAnything.com
  12. "If you save up your rewards points all year, now’s a great time to put them to work. I’ve redeemed Air Miles for gift cards I used to buy Christmas presents. You can also trade rewards points in for rewards to give as gifts. Either way, it’s money you don’t have to spend." - Ray, FinancialHighway.com
  13. "Come up with a spending limit for each person on your list, rather than an overall budget. This helps prevent overspending." - Andrew, MoneyCrashers.com
  14. "Never pay full retail! Start shopping with a price comparison site such as PriceGrabber.com. Once you've located the lowest available price, see if the store is accessible through a cash-back shopping site." - Donna Freedman, DonnaFreedman.com
  15. "Don't fall for easy tricks. Everyone loves to get something half off or get free shipping, but if it requires you to buy something you don't need or spend more then it's not a deal at all." - John, FrugalRules.com
  16. "Not all sale is a bargain. Check your cost per wear (Price / # times you’ll wear it). If the cost per wear is less than $3, then it might be a good deal. Otherwise, just leave it on the rack." - Kathryn, TheBudgetFashionista.com
  17. "Wait to buy new clothes after Christmas has passed. I've been able to save anywhere from 30 to 60% each year by being patient and waiting for the big sales." - Jeff Rose, GoodFinancialCents.com
  18. "Keep an eye on the clearance racks for potential stocking stuffers throughout the year. We have a box in our closet that already has items for each of our kids that we picked up at some point." - Jefferson, SeeDebtRun.com
  19. "If you want to give the gift of homemade food, consider giving something that can be made later, like scone or cookie mix. People are already inundated with tons of treats around the holidays." Meg Favreau, Wisebread.com
  20. "If you go to the store to "research" items you plan to buy online, at least give the store a chance to match the best online price. You'll save time and money.." - Philip Taylor, PTMoney.com
  21. "Shop at the dollar store for all gift wrap. You can find cheap bows, ribbon, bags, boxes, tissue paper and greeting cards while saving up to 70% off." - Andrea Woroch, Consumer Savings Expert, AndreaWoroch.com
  22. "Don’t be afraid to regift. I’ve re-gifted jewelry, scarves and coffee mugs in the past with success. As long as items are in good shape and usable, there’s no shame in recycling!” - Kendal Perez, HassleFreeSavings.com
  23. "It's no secret buying gifts for everyone can get expensive quickly. That's why my cousins and I switched to a Secret Santa exchange. Now, we get to enjoy each other's company knowing we didn't forget to gift anyone and didn't break the bank for the holidays. You might say we're no longer Claus-trophobic." - Mario, DebtBlag.com
  24. "Have someone negotiate your bills for you: I recently found out about a pretty cool service called BillCutterz. All you do is send them your bills and they call your providers and negotiate better rates on your behalf. You then split the savings with them and can apply it towards the holidays!” - Bob, ChristianPF.com
  25. "Many people buy new computers around the holidays because their old computer seems sluggish. You can fix your computer's sluggishness frugally by installing new RAM. This will cost 1/10th the price of buying a new computer and you will get a noticeable performance boost that will make your old computer feel new again." - Ashley Jacobs, Wisebread.com
  26. "Consider buying one large gift for families instead of several smaller presents to save money. One suggestion is to buy snacks, popcorn tins, DVDs, soda, etc. for a family movie night gift." Kristie Sawicki, SavingDollarsandSense.com
  27. "Keep your receipts! Since most stores offer price adjustments within two weeks after making a purchase, but you'll need to present the receipt. If the item goes on sale after you made the purchase, show your receipt and get credited for the difference." - Scott Gamm, HelpSaveMyDollars.com
  28. "Waiting to do your holiday shopping at the last minute is never a good idea. If you really want to save money this year, start right now so you can monitor when certain gifts go on sale." - Jessica, MoMoneyMoHouses.com
  29. "Check your credit card limits before you shop: If you use more than 30 percent of your credit limit, your credit score could drop. This is important to keep in mind if you’re planning to refinance your mortgage or get an auto loan anytime soon." Beverly Harzog, Author of "Confessions of a Credit Junkie: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Mistakes I Made,” BeverlyHarzog.com
  30. "Use social media hashtags to find the deals. On Twitter follow #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday to get the deals that are being continuously posted for those days." - Mary Hall, TheRecessionista.com
  31. "Utilize those banked Cashback rewards. If you have a Discover card and shop Amazon, Christmas is a great time to use those rewards. Simply link up your Discover Cashback account to Amazon and shop away!” - Aaron, ThreeThriftyGuys.com
  32. "Approach gift giving from a practical point of view. What does your ‘giftee’ need? Make it personal by tailoring to your recipients’ circumstances. If you don’t know what they need, cleaning services and grocery store gift cards are always a good option." Stefanie, TheBrokeandBeautifulLife.com
  33. "It's easy to overdo it during the holiday shopping season. To prevent going into debt over gift-giving, place a yellow sticky in your wallet with your total holiday budget at the top. Subtract the amount of each purchase as you go to keep your spending under control." Jackie, TheDebtMyth.com
  34. "Buy lost or unsold merchandise by searching for ‘recovery management’ or ‘overgoods’ in your local area. You may find stores that sell name-brand merchandise for a significant discount...a great place for you to buy cheap Christmas presents." Ben Edwards, MoneySmartLife.com
  35. "While waiting close to the holiday to buy your gifts can be scary, you can really save some serious money. In the last week before the holiday, retailers are trying to get rid of inventory and keep customers buying, so they provide heavy discounts. Many times you can get free expedited shipping when you buy online as well." - Grayson, DebtRoundup.com
  36. "Google ‘Black Friday Ads’ to find sites that have posted retailers’ ads in advance. Map out your shopping strategy based on the best deals you need and the stores’ opening times. Divide and conquer with a shopping partner and get each other’s items to cover more stores earlier." Stephanie, CouponMom.com
  37. "Holiday receipts are cash, not trash! Grab an envelope and label it ‘Holiday Receipts.’ Use them to get money back by utilizing retailers low-price guarantees, and don’t forget to look for coupons and surveys on the back of those receipts to get future discounts and freebies." - Denise Winston, Author of "Money Starts Here! Your Practical Guide to Survive and Thrive in Any Economy” MoneyStartHere.com
  38. "Freeze your credit card, literally. Place your credit card in a cup of water and freeze it so that when you make a decision to use it, the time it takes to ‘unfreeze’ gives you a chance to really think about that potential purchase and if it's worth it. Chances are the urge to buy will pass before the cup of ice melts!” - Patt Flynn, SmartPassiveIncome.com
  39. "Just like you would diet or exercise with a workout buddy to hold you accountable, shop with a friend or shopping buddy to help keep you spending below your means." - Steve Siebold, Author of "How Rich People Think” - HowRichPeopleThinkBook.com
  40. "When you have limited space to fit a gift in your suitcase when traveling for the holidays, purchase a voucher as a gift from a daily deal site such as Groupon or Living Social. You can print the certificate to include in a card and give as a unique present." - Jon Lal, BeFrugal.com
  41. "A lot of businesses offer 10% or more to AAA members. If you are a member, make sure to ask any retailer you shop at this season if they offer a membership discount." - Andy LaPointe, MoneySmartTeens.com
  42. "Stock up on generic gifts. I love the bins at craft stores that are filled with special stationery, monogrammed notepads, holiday soaps and ornaments. They come in handy when you need that extra something to add to a gift and they are inexpensive." - Karen, MoneySavingEnthusiast.com
  43. "Make it homemade. Give homemade gifts this year such as superhero capes or hair bows for the little ones, tablet or laptop covers for the teens and homemade jams and salsa for the adults." - Corinne, OneIncomeLife.com
  44. "Instead of buying more stuff for each other this holiday season, focus on finding an experience together with your friends and family. It could be a mini-trip together, or even an activity neither of you tried before. It’ll be fun, and create lasting memories." - David, MoneyNing.com
  45. "If you’re short on funds this season, create your own gift basket. Discount and Dollar Stores often have great items that were overstocked in other stores and as a result, end up in dollar bins. Make sure to make the basket look stuffed by getting a slightly smaller basket than you actually need." - Tiffany, TheBudgetnista.com
  46. "Never go shopping while hungry! Nothing's worse than trying to bargain shop when you're stomach's empty and you've got a list a mile long. It's not a bad idea to bring along some snacks too - you don't want to miss out on any deals while foraging for more food!” - J. Money, Budgets Are Sexy & RockStarFinance.com
  47. "When I order online, I rarely pay for shipping. I’ve found that if you’re willing to look around and be patient, you can buy just about anything online without paying for shipping. Many stores offer free shipping year-round on a minimum order or they offer free shipping codes at various times throughout the year." Crystal Paine, MoneySavingMom.com
  48. "Spend your time, not your money. If you have kids who are in college or struggling, pay their December or January rent. When they ask who paid it, have the landlord tell them it was ‘Santa Claus.’ Ultimately, the holidays are a great time to reflect on what people really need." - Cat, BudgetBlonde.com
  49. "If you’re going to be spending anyway during the holidays, why not get something back all of your purchases? One unique rewards card is the GM Card from Capital One, which takes a percentage of your spending and turns it into earnings for a down payment on a new GM car." - Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach, AskTheMoneyCoach.com
  50. "Many people receive gift cards as presents throughout the year, but that doesn't mean you have to buy something you don't need at that store. Consider saving those for later in the year to directly re-gift or to buy other presents." - Jeremy, ModestMoney.com
  51. "Research shows that people who pay using credit cards spend more than those who use cash. Set aside cash for certain gifts so that you aren't tempted to reach for the plastic." Caryn, GoGirlFinance.com
  52. "If you want to stay connected but don't want to pay for expensive airlines tickets, use Skype to connect with your family and friends over the holidays." Deacon, WellKeptWallet.com
  53. "Why not find volunteer work you can do with your children rather than just writing a check this holiday season? Your kids will see the need that exists and have more appreciation for the things they have. You can also work with them to box up outgrown toys and clothes for donation or have them chip in some of their allowance to buy a toy for Toys for Tots or other charity." - Teresa, MomsWhoSave.com
  54. "Think outside the box, literally. I challenge myself and others to give non-boxed gifts. This usually entails baskets or bags and means my creativity is prized more than how much I spend." - Jen, TheHappyHomeowner.net
  55. "When shopping food sales and coupon matches for Thanksgiving dinner, stock up for your Christmas feast, too. Find extra time by shopping at stores where you can get everything you need in one trip. Then, use the extra time to bake some cookies which make great, inexpensive gifts!” - Brian & Beth, SimplyBudgeted.com
  56. "Buy refurbished. You can reap big savings while usually still getting the same manufacturer warranty and return policy as buying new." - Johnny, OurFreakingBudget.com
  57. "Don’t underestimate the awesomeness that is non-stuff gifts -- AAA or Amazon Prime memberships, dinner out, or loan payments are awesome and useful gifts that don’t have to fit in your carry-on." Erin, RedDebtedStepchild.com
  58. "Don't go shopping on Thanksgiving. It's a powerful way to send the message to big-box retailers that Thanksgiving is for family, and the day after is for shopping." - Kathleen O’Malley, FrugalPortland.com
  59. "There is one thing all the adults in my family can agree on – gift shopping for every family member is a hassle. We all agree to limit gift shopping to children only. This saves a fortune in both time and money, plus makes the holiday more fun because it allows the time spent together to be focused on the kids and connection instead of just opening a mountain of gifts." - Todd Tresidder, Financial Coach, FinancialMentor.com
  60. "As tempting as the sales, deals and pressure to find the perfect gift may be, remember that you don't need to spend a lot of money to show a lot of love during the holidays. Keep that in mind when you're fighting over the last Elf on the Shelf at the toy store." - Stephanie, EmpoweredDollar.com
  61. "The best way to curb our holiday spending is to be mindful about the suffering around us. I've been more mindful of spending ever since a trip to New Delhi, India in 2002. Seeing the world changes you for the better. We take for granted our lifestyles in America because we have so much." - Sam, FinancialSamurai.com
  62. "Many stores, like Target and others, will place their significantly reduced items in the back and on end caps in the back of the store. They know that no one goes back there and that's why they put it there. Go for a walk and you'll likely score a nice price." - John, FrugalRules.com
  63. "Keep track of return deadlines of your holiday purchases, and be sure to return items ASAP. Receipts tend to get lost easily amidst the busy holidays, so try to get this out of the way as soon as you can." - Kathryn, TheBudgetFashionista.com
  64. "Last year's greeting cards can be turned into gift tags. Simply discard the portion of the card that was written on by cutting along the fold. Punch a hole so you can tie a string through the card to attach to the gift." - Andrea Woroch, Consumer Savings Expert, AndreaWoroch.com
  65. "Save more by using your credit card’s online shopping mall. During the holidays, you might find big discounts at specific stores. Check out this possibility before you head to the stores. It could save you money as well as time." - Beverly Harzog, Author of "Confessions of a Credit Junkie: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Mistakes I Made,” - BeverlyHarzog.com
  66. "The best time to buy apparel and accessories will be Cyber Monday, with all the major online retailers offering significant sitewide deals. However, the highest volume of deals will be available from December 15-24. The closer we get to Dec. 25, the deeper the discounts will be." Mary Hall, TheRecessionista.com
  67. "Wrapping gifts in Lucky Charm, Frosted Flakes and Amazon boxes adds some fun and character under your tree while saving money and being environmentally friendly." - Andy LaPointe, MoneySmartTeens.com
  68. "Pay with cash only. Do everything you can to avoid using credit cards at Christmas. It's the worst way to go into debt without realizing it." Aaron Crowe, Personal Finance Writer, AaronCrowe.net
  69. "Don't get yourself further in debt if you already have consumer debt (e.g. credit cards). It's OK to say no to kids on expensive gifts. It's fine to limit who you give to. Don't go into debt!” - Glen, FreeFromBroke.com
  70. "Always search for available coupons before heading to the store." - Sean, OneSmartDollar.com
  71. "If you can "delay" giving someone a present (perhaps if they live out-of-town and you'll see them a few days after Christmas), shop for that person after Christmas. The after-Christmas sales are often far more spectacular than any pre-Christmas sales." - Paula, AffordAnything.com
  72. "Take someone along with you when you shop. This gives you a second opinion on gifts you're unsure about and can help relieve the irritation associated with standing in long lines." - Andrew, MoneyCrashers.com
  73. "Buy discounted gift cards now through CardPool.com or GiftCardGranny.com. They have a great selection of cards for as much as 10% off, and they guarantee every card they sell. You can even set an email reminder when a coveted card becomes available." - Julia Scott, BargainBabe.com
  74. "Don't shop for others and for yourself at the same time. When you are already in the "spending" mode, it can be much easier to let the money flow and get "a little something" for yourself while you are there." - Jefferson, SeeDebtRun.com
  75. "Make a shopping list and stick to it. Knowing what you need before you go shopping will allow you to complete the task quicker and within budget." - Philip Taylor, PTMoney.com
  76. "Get creative with what you have. Last year, I accompanied a co-worker’s gift with a mesh bag full of gourmet chocolate I purchased for myself a week before." - Kendal Perez, HassleFreeSavings.com
  77. "Don't be tempted to sign up for credit cards at the register to save a percentage off your order, only to be stuck with a credit bill. Stick with cash, spend only what you have to spend." - Kristie Sawicki, SavingDollarsandSense.com
  78. "In an effort to get you to spend more retailers will bundle multiple items together and reduce the total price. You're only saving money if you actually want all the items in the bundle but if you do it can save you money” - Ben Edwards, MoneySmartLife.com
  79. "Black Friday isn't just about waiting in line to buy gifts anymore. Many retailers provide awesome deals online for those not wanting to wait with the hordes of people." - Grayson, DebtRoundup.com
  80. "Sometimes a small act of kindness is much better than a gift under the tree." - Cat, BudgetBlonde.com
  81. "Set up a "gift closet" and start buying gifts you find on sale. This eliminates the last minute shopping crisis, which often results in overspending." - Carrie, CarefulCents.com
  82. "Commit to not going over your spending limit and to paying cash long before you start shopping, so you can avoid those last-minute shopping temptations." - Laurie, TheFrugalFarmer.net
  83. "If you aren't price-checking, then you are throwing away free money. Make sure you're getting an item for the absolute cheapest and see if a store does price matching." Erin, BrokeMillennial.com
  84. "If you like the idea of a personal touch but don't have the time or skill to make gifts yourself, the ultimate marketplace for homemade gifts is Etsy, where you can find crafty items from over 200,000 sellers." Stephanie, PracticalMoneySkills.com
  85. "Keep your receipts in case the e-device or hoodie you buy this week goes on sale next week. Your purchase may qualify for a price adjustment." - Donna Freedman, DonnaFreedman.com
  86. "If you can, try to include room in your budget for donating to charity since the spirit of the holidays revolves around giving!” - Ashley Jacobs, Wisebread.com
  87. "Remember that kids learn by example. Even parents who have failed to reach their financial dreams can still teach their kids important lessons about money during the holiday season." - Steve Siebold, Author of "How Rich People Think,” HowRichPeopleThinkBook.com
  88. "If you have any unused gift cards, use them to purchase your holiday gifts. If the gift cards are for stores you don't frequent, trade them for gift cards you will use." - Corinne, OneIncomeLife.com
  89. "Constraints can lead to more creativity - set a gift budget and remember to include all likely gift recipients (friends, family, kids' teachers etc). Communicate it with friends and family to set expectations." - Sarah, GoGirlFinance.com
  90. "Many stores will negotiate prices with people who have cash because they don't have to pay credit card processing fees and they know that it is a done deal with cash." - Deacon, WellKeptWallet.com
  91. "My wife has four generations of tradition built around an entire day spent baking different types of holiday cookies to share as gifts. The cost is flour and sugar…and a lot of family time." - Todd Tresidder, Financial Coach, FinancialMentor.com
  92. "Start saving before the holidays. If you save a little bit each week or each month, then the holidays won't feel like they are hurting your budget as much." - Michelle, MakingSenseofCents.com
  93. "Ensure the website you’re browsing is secure. Secured sites often have a "s” at the end of http (https) and tend to have a "lock” icon at the bottom of the screen." - Ray, FinancialHighway.com
  94. "Remember: A deal is only a deal if you were planning to buy the item anyway. Don't get caught up in a holiday-sale frenzy and buy things you weren't already planning to." - Meg Favreau, Wisebread.com
  95. "If you're buying for family or friends who live out of town, consider buying them presents online to take advantage of free or cheap shipping." - Jessica, MoMoneyMoHouses.com
  96. "For low cost gift options consider magazine subscriptions, smartphone apps, or thoughtful DIY projects like photo albums and personalized gift baskets." - Stefanie, TheBrokeandBeautifulLife.com
  97. "Redeem cash back rebate dollars from credit card programs for bonus gift card values. For example, use $20 of your credit card rebate dollars to get a $25 gift card to selected retailers and stack the savings by using your retailer gift card to buy your Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals." - Stephanie, CouponMom.com
  98. "Use price tracking tools like CamelCamelCamel to find out if you're actually getting a good deal compared to historical prices." - Johnny, OurFreakingBudget.com
  99. "Pare down your list so you can enjoy the holidays instead of dreading them. The holidays are about quality time with your family, not thousands of dollars worth of gifts." - Erin, RedDebtedStepchild.com
  100. "I do a lot of my holiday shopping online. It saves time (which is more valuable than money), is less frustrating, and often provides the same great deals." - Miranda Marquit, PlantingMoneySeeds.com

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