5 budget-friendly shopping ideas to save on the holidays


Robyn Parets

Robyn Parets

Blog author Robyn Parets

Robyn Parets is a personal finance and business writer based in Boston. A former writer for Investor's Business Daily (IBD) and NerdWallet, Robyn is also the founder and owner of Pretzel Kids, a children's fitness brand and online training course. You can find her on Twitter @RobynParets.

Published December 16, 2016 | 3 min read

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be behind us but if you still have gifts to buy and money is tight, don't worry. A little research and creativity can go a long way.Here are five budget-friendly tips that work:

Determine a holiday spending budget and stick to it

As Christmas nears, shopping becomes more stressful and it’s easy to create debt by overspending with credit. Before negatively impacting your credit score, calculate your gift spending budget and stay disciplined.Explore one of the many budgeting apps you can use to stay on budget, both for the holidays and year round. It also helps to write out a list of everyone you have left to buy for, including teachers, the mailman, your hairdresser and other service personnel. This way you can allocate dollar amounts to each person. Not only will this help you stay within your budget, but you won’t forget to purchase gifts for key people inthe hectic days leading up to Christmas.

Shop in bulk

Wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club often sell items like books, socks and gift cards in multi-packs at discount prices -- perfect for co-workers, teachers, or anyone left on your list. You can buy a three-pack of gift cards often at a discount off face value, for example, and then give each card to a different individual on your holiday gift list. If you don’t want to deal with holiday shopping crowds, look online for wholesale deals. Costco online touts gift card and ticket "deals of the day." (On December 6, for example, you could have scored four print-at-home Regal movie e-tickets for only $35.99.)

Surf coupon deal sites

Lately I have found some of the best shopping deals on Groupon.com. Online discount sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Gilt City often feature deals on merchandise, restaurants and destinations for 50% lower than prices offered directly through the merchant. If you subscribe to these sites, you can pick up some last-minute bargains for the holidays. For example, I recently purchased an Xbox game console for my son. This came with two controllers and two games for about 50% off. I also purchased a month-long trial YMCA membership for my family for $20, and a large dog bed for under $30 (normally $100). Yes, my dog is included in our holiday budget.

Make this a very giving holiday season

In this case, we don’t mean giving gifts but donating to charities. Keep in mind that donating money still chips away at your budget, so you’ll need to be mindful of your spending limitations. At the same time, instead of a buying presents, gifting money in a loved one’s name is a great way to help an organization in need while recognizing someone on your list this holiday season and is tax-deductible for you just in time for 2017 tax season. Another perk: The person you are honoring with a gift contribution does not need to know how much money you donated. Regardless of whether you donate $5 or $50, the charitable organization will appreciate the contribution and your loved one will receive a nice gift card in the mail from the non-profit. Plus, you can write it off on your taxes. Keep the receipt!

Get crafty

Kids aren’t the only ones who can make gifts. If you have a talent such as knitting, scrapbooking, photography, or painting you may want to consider giving a homemade gift like a knit scarf or framed family photograph. Another personal and popular DIY alternative is baking cookies and packaging them up in individual goodie bags or baskets. You still need to buy materials and ingredients but this tends to cost less overall - especially if you buy in bulk - than buying individual presents. Another plus: Your family and friends will appreciate the thoughtfulness and attention put into these personal and homemade gifts.Yes, Virginia, you can do all your Christmas shopping, give the gifts you want, and avoid going broke into the New Year. With some budgeting savvy, creative smarts and a generous yet frugal spirit, this holiday season might just turn out to be the most special one yet.