In 2013, Americans spent $603 billion on the winter holidays — Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa — far more than all the other holidays combined! The average person spent $730 on food, gifts, and holidays decorations. If you have a large family and/or children to buy for, your hard-earned money can often seem like it’s flying up the chimney and away on Santa’s sled at this time of the year. Here are a few tips to help you save money and celebrate the season without breaking the bank:
Make a list
Simply planning out your spending will give you a framework in which to operate and curb impulse purchases. Make a list of everyone you need to buy for with gift ideas and a maximum amount for each person. Include holiday tips for the service people in your life and gifts for your children’s teachers. You will feel a stronger pull to stay within your own self-imposed limits if you have the clarity of a list before heading to the stores (online or brick-and-mortar). There are apps that can help you too: List Ease allows you to invite family members to join holiday shopping lists, and Slice keeps track of your online shopping through your email. There are dozens of holiday list apps out there; it’s worth searching to find a good one to save time and money later.
Shop early, on time, and late
This sounds counter-intuitive, but there are bargains to be had in all stages of the shopping process. Shopping early has the advantage of being able to get bargains as they come. According to Adobe Digital research, prices bottom out at 27% less than normal on Thanksgiving Day so it can pay off to start early. As the shopping season commences, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday all have corresponding sales and discounts appropriate to their day on their websites. Consumer Reports says that the best electronics prices come after Cyber Monday and before December 13th. And, as for late, the New York Times suggests waiting until the week before Christmas for the best deals. “Late” can also refer to the time of day, as many stores will start the next day’s sales after 6 PM according to Business Insider.
There are also plenty of apps out there to help you track sale prices and comparison shop. Camelcamelcamel charts the price of an item on Amazon over time so you can see if it’s rising or falling. PriceJump allows you to paste a link from Amazon in, and it will tell you if it can find a better price somewhere around the web. Free Shipping Day is December 18th; their website contains a list of participating retailers. Many of the big box online retailers offer free shipping with a minimum purchase through Dec 20th and guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve. In short - if you have the time to research, you can most definitely save money at any point in the holiday shopping cycle.
Make it yourself
Our growing preoccupation with items that are crafty, artisanal, and handmade means that not only can this strategy be a time saver — but it is also fashionable! You can obviously save lots of money by making people gifts especially if you are a talented baker, craftsperson, or artist. Often a handmade gift means more to someone, especially if it is created with the person receiving it in mind. If you are looking to learn a new skill before the holidays with crafting gifts in mind, how-to books or local classes can be helpful. Sites like Etsy also have hundreds of handmade items available direct from the people who make them; these can be special, unique gifts for people who “have everything” or would appreciate something offbeat. There is also the options of buying something secondhand or used (off of eBay or elsewhere), but either the item should be in pristine condition (i.e. basically new) or you should be very familiar with the recipient to know whether they would appreciate such a gift.
The Alliance for Affordable Services is committed to helping you save money this holiday season. Members receive a 20% discount at 1-800-Flowers.com — which is much more than an online flower shop! It includes the Harry & David brand and other popular holiday favorites (like Cheryl’s and Wolferman’s); the 20% discount can be applied to gift baskets, gourmet foods, and floral arrangements for the holiday table. Members also receive up to a 60% discount at hundreds of retail partners through the Working Advantage program. For more information, and to become an Alliance member, visit the Alliance Direct Benefits website today or call us at 1-800-733-2242 (M-F, 7am-5:30pm Central Time).