Make a List, and Check It Twice! 13 Holiday Shopping Tips to Help You Avoid Debt

Holiday shopping can be daunting. Some people get so intimidated, they wait until the last minute, missing all of the great deals, spending more than they should, and missing out on big opportunities to save money. Other people blow all of their money on tons of gifts too early before the holiday deals start. Some even spend money they don’t have by racking up credit card debt just to please everyone on their shopping lists.

This year, save money and stay out of debt while conquering your holiday shopping with these tips!

1. Set a budget, and stick to it.

holiday shopping budget

This is both the easiest to say and the hardest to do. It is important when embarking on the holiday shopping to have a clearly defined budget in mind. This should be more than just a single budget for one person on your list, but an itemized budget for everyone you wish to include in your holiday shopping. This will tell you how much money you may need to save before the holidays hit and is truly the best way to keep you from overspending.

2. Make a list. Check it twice.

holiday shopping list

Get everyone’s lists in order, and then get your list in order. You can easily use a spreadsheet to highlight what’s left versus what you’ve completed, and you can even add the formulas to automatically keep track of your spending. Writing it down on a piece of paper can be more time consuming, but it works just as well.

3. Do your research.

holiday sales research

Different stores have different prices—sometimes for comparable items, and sometimes for the exact same items. Compare prices online before going into the stores in order to save money. You can even shop online and ship to your local store to save money on shipping costs.

4. Start early.

shopping sales

You can start shopping well before Black Friday. If you see something you think a friend or family member would love, buy it! Why wait? Also, there are different sales all the time, not just at the end of the year, so getting a head start on holiday shopping doesn’t hurt. Plus, you can find unique gift ideas while at the grocery store or while doing daily errands well before the holiday season, so always keep an open mind.

5. Do Black Friday right.

black friday sale

You can find great deals on things like pajamas, toys, and small electronics on Black Friday, but the trick is not to go to the stores in the city. Go out to the suburbs, or find a store that isn’t attached to a shopping plaza. You can find the same deals with a lot less foot traffic!

6. Don’t feel confined by lists.

christmas wish list

There are times when a list just doesn’t suffice or is unrealistic. Sometimes kids want things that are just too outlandish. Instead of buying your daughter an actual horse, maybe you can buy her a horse for her favorite doll instead. If your son wants a new bike, get him a new helmet or new bike accessories. Homemade holiday-themed cookies are always great for anyone with a sweet tooth as well. It is okay to buy alternative items or make things from the heart. It is the thought that counts.

7. Don’t let guilt get to you.

hanukkah gift

There’s always next year—or next birthday, or next anniversary. Most of us won’t remember every item we put on or lists. Don’t overspend because you feel like you need to get it all.

Don’t forget this sentiment when the holiday is over either. Return anything that doesn’t fit, you don’t like, or you won’t use. Don’t let things just sit around collecting dust when you could benefit from the extra pocket cash. You may feel guilty about returning a gift from a friend or family member, but it isn’t any better to let it go unused.

8. Take advantage of point systems.

loyalty rewards card

Shop for vacations, large electronics, and appliances during the holiday season, making sure to use rewards systems to rack up as many points as possible while the rewards systems are at their highest. It may not save you money upfront, but you can save later when you redeem the points.

9. Shop the clearance sections.

hanukkah gifts

Save money on stocking stuffers or Hanukkah trinkets by using clearance sales to your advantage. There are many boutique toy stores or home furnishing stores that are great to visit to find holiday sales or off-season clearance items that can make perfect, inexpensive gifts. You can also shop online to get great clearance deals. You can even sort products from low prices to high prices so you can take full advantage of the sales.

Buying stuff after the holidays is another really great way to save money on holiday-themed décor, gift wrap, or other related items. Take advantage of the 75% off stuff and save it for next year. Or, for those who exchange gifts after the holidays are over, save your shopping for the post-holiday clearance sales.

10. Don't forget about online exclusives.

holiday shopping online

A lot of stores offer deals online that they don't offer in store. Cyber Monday is one of the biggest days for online shopping deals that can help you save a ton of money without venturing into the big crowds.

11. Do holidays DIY style.

pine cone holiday centerpiece

Save money on gifts for extended family and friends by gathering the kids to make something special. Try making holiday ornaments, cookies, or table decorations using Pinterest for great craft and money saving ideas.

You can even bring the outside in for a cozy, crafty holiday centerpiece. Find pinecones while taking a family walk. Paint the ends with glue, and sprinkle glitter over the glue. Place in a decorative bowl for a beautiful, festive look. This is a great way to make your own holiday decorations with stuff you can find in your own backyard.

You don’t need to use expensive wrapping paper just because it has snowflakes on it. Use the comics section of the newspaper or have your kids decorate brown paper bags. Use a bit of yarn for ribbon, and you’ve got a perfectly wrapped gift for little to no money.

12. Stay away from malls.

mall shoppers

Only go to the mall if absolutely necessary. It will be a mad house every day all season long. If you have to go, go during the week during the late at night extended holiday hours. Keep in mind, going to the mall allows you to browse and spend more money on friends, family, and yourself. Try to go to stores that will let you stay on task.

13. Get cash for old items.

box of stuff

Remember, it’s not only about saving money, but also about avoiding debt. Making money off old items is much better than racking up credit card debt for new stuff! So, go through all of your old things. Have everyone in the family fill up one bag of things they no longer want or need. Take these things to a resale shop or host a yard sale. Use this money to buy new things for the holidays!

Feel-Good Tip:

If you can’t get money back for certain items, assess if they are in good condition for a donation. It won’t save you money, but it will make you feel great to help those in need during the holiday season!

The holidays are supposed to be fun. Going into debt is not fun. Keep your holidays on an upbeat, positive note by planning ahead and saving money. You can save on everything from gifts to décor. So, make a list, check it twice, create a budget, look for deals, and start shopping! Good luck and go save!