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How To Be a Savvy Shopper During the Holidays

How To Be a Savvy Shopper During the Holidays

We are all busy being our very best “Christmas elves” right now, doing last-minute holiday shopping, preparing dinner menus, and creating festive and magical family memories.

The holidays are hectic, and unless you’re one of those proactive “super planners” who shop throughout the year and get all your holiday buying done ahead of time, you are probably just now gearing up for gift-giving season.

And, if you are like a lot of other people, you probably need to stick to a holiday budget. It is far too easy to go overboard and blow your money this time of year, but these smart holiday shopping tips can help put you on track to keep your seasonal spending on budget, making holiday shopping less stressful.

Make a Christmas List and Stick to it

At other times of the year, the first step in money matters is to plan a budget, and we’ll get there. But before you budget at Christmas, our very first tip is this: just like Santa, you should make a list, and check it (more than) twice.

Searching and shopping for gifts takes time, especially when you don’t really know what you’re looking for. You should always start by writing out a list of gift ideas before you hit the stores or websites.

Who are the people you’ll be giving gifts to this year? What kind of things do they like? Maybe it’s toys for kids, a lovely throw blanket for a friend, wine for your neighbors, or “must-have” baking supplies for the baker in your life (like mom).

Plan a Christmas Shopping Budget

Make this an ironclad rule: set a spending limit. It might be painful at first, but take a good look at your bank balance to work out how much cash you can play with around holiday time. Ideally, this money should come entirely out of your available cash and savings, so you don’t have to take on any debt to buy gifts.

Keep an Eye Out for Christmas Deals 

Once you’ve established your gift list, set your budget, and researched your major purchases, it should be easy to spot a good holiday deal when you see it. Once you’ve bought what you need, you should stop looking, to avoid any temptation to engage in overspending. 

Research and Shop Online 

Shopping online isn’t only convenient, it’s also a great way to research products before you buy. Do thorough research on the internet, making sure to compare prices and confirm availability of products. 

Plus, there is no sense fighting the crowds if you don’t need to. I have been a fan of online shopping since the dawn of the internet and now I do about 95% of my retail shopping online. The selection and prices just can’t be beat. You just need to make sure that any holiday gift you buy online will get to you or the recipient in time, so order well ahead and factor in stocking and shipping delays.

Try Secret Santa

One way to ensure you keep the festive spirit without getting plunged into serious Christmas debt is by holding a “Secret Santa.”

If you haven’t done Secret Santa before, it’s a party or gathering (it can even be done online) where you put a bunch of names into a hat, and each participant pulls one name out. The name you pluck from the hat is the only person you need to buy a gift for, and often Secret Santa participants agree upon a set cost limit for each gift, so you’ll be able to save serious money. Often Secret Santa givers are kept anonymous, so there is also the fun of guessing your giver.

To organize a Secret Santa event, talk to your family and friends about who wants to be involved, throw your names in the hat, and decide on a maximum spend you’re all comfortable with. This way, everyone gets a great gift, and no one is left bankrupt.

Do Your Research on Major Purchases

If you are hoping to score a deal on a big-ticket item on your holiday shopping list this year, like a laptop, video game system, tablet computer, flat-screen TV, or camera, don’t just throw caution to the wind and buy it.

Spend ample time researching the various options and brands available. Read the online reviews, figure out base prices and how much you’re willing and able to spend (financing options are available for many of these items), and make a list of at least your top three picks.

Don’t be Afraid to Buy the Same Gift Twice (or More)  

If you find a gift that you know several people on your shopping list would enjoy, don’t be afraid to buy it in multiples. This will cut down on your shopping time, and if the store is offering a “buy one item, get the second at a discount” or similar deal, that’s even better. 

Combine your Orders 

Speaking of deals, plenty of stores offer free shipping if you spend a minimum amount, so try to combine your in-store purchases or online orders to reach that minimum. 

If you see that perfect superhero-themed sweatshirt you know your dad would love, but you’re below the minimum amount for free shipping, keep shopping inside the store or on the website. You might find another cool gift and qualify for the free shipping, but just don’t buy to buy, be thoughtful and combine orders to lower costs. 

Save your Decorations

One way to easily waste money is to buy new holiday decorations every year. Save money by investing in some storage containers, an ornament storage box and a Christmas tree storage bag.

Storing your holiday decorations will not only save you money, but it will also save you time since you don’t need to shop for new stuff.

Do It Yourself 

Gifts on your holiday list don’t always need to come from a store. You can save some serious cash by making gifts yourself. I love DIY Christmas gifts! 

If you have a hobby like knitting, quilting, or baking, you can make handmade gifts for your friends and relatives, like this lovely homemade strawberry swirl marshmallow. 

A bonus of a do-it-yourself holiday gift is that when you put real effort into making something for someone, it’s much more personal and touching than something you just picked up from a store shelf. 

Shopping smarter, and thriftier, during the holiday season is one of the best strategies for every savvy shopper.  

Wrap it up

Once you’ve bought the gifts, there’s the matter of wrapping them, which some people find challenging. Here are some tips for perfect holiday gift-wrapping and some of my favorite supplies for the task. We want you to enjoy – not dread – wrapping Christmas gifts. 

When you are done with your holiday shopping, it’s time to plan a few fun activities to do with the family. To bring families together, and put everyone in a cheerful holiday mood, I have created a 12 days of Christmas bucket list for the family to do together.  

Happy Holidays!  

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About The Author

Wanda Lopez

Wanda Lopez a blogger at heart and shares her insight on all things food, recipes, home décor, travel and more at She’s a passionate content editor and contributor for household brands such as Kraft, Publix, Ford, Best Buy and more--all while balancing work, motherhood and all things in between. An educator and avid photographer, she is in love with design, food and the outdoors.

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