Ho-ho-ho! It’s December again, and you know what that means–it’s Christmas time again!

Christmas is one of my favorite seasons of the year. I love all the Christmas songs, I love all the Christmas decors, I love all the Christmas specials! More importantly, I love the weather. I’ve always liked the cold weather better.

Plus, Christmas means I get to see most of my family again. I’ve been living away from home for a couple of years now since college, so I don’t get to see them often. I’m lucky enough to remain ‘close’ to my extended family, but it does pose a very unique problem for me every single year. How in the world am I going to get everyone Christmas gifts?!

And the thing is, when I was younger, I really sucked at giving Christmas gifts. There was this one time when I just gave everyone mugs and alarm clocks for Christmas. Mugs and alarm clocks, what? For the life of me, I could never figure out what to buy for who and that means I always ended up rushing my Christmas gift shopping. Rushed shopping is never a good shopping strategy. You end up buying unnecessary things, going over your budget, or worse, not setting a budget at all.

10 Tips to Save Money on Christmas Gifts

the ultimate guide to save money on christmas gifts

Fret not, we’re all in this together! I had to learn this the hard way when I was in college, so I’m here to share some of my tried and tested tips to a stress-free, budget-savvy Christmas gift shopping!

1. Set a budget for Christmas gifts

Setting a budget for Christmas gifts is especially important when you’re rushing your annual Christmas shopping. After all, you’re in desperate need of this warm pair of mufflers for little Bob, so there’s no way you can still stick to your budget, right?!

Wrong! Christmas gift shopping is notorious for adding a huge amount to your holiday expenses. This can cause a serious dent to your pockets, depending on how deep the said pockets are. Personally, mine are on the shallow side, so I always exercise some caution and good ol’ discipline whenever I buy my Christmas gifts. Remember that shopping in a rush can cause you to go over your budget or totally neglect your budget altogether. If you really want to save money on Christmas gifts, take your time and don’t forget to set a budget!

See also: How Discipline Can Save You Money

2. Plan your list ahead

Ever heard of the term ‘impulse buying’? Well, guess what, this phenomenon shoots up during the Christmas season. Fun fact, 87% of Brits are expected to spend over £14 billion just for their Christmas spending. That’s roughly around £390.56 per person, which is a lot if you think about it.

That’s why it’s insanely important to plan your list ahead in order to save money on Christmas gifts. Figure out who you’re buying a gift for and what gift, in particular, to prevent impulsive on-the-spot spending. Sure, sure, I bet those matching shampoo and conditioner holders are absolutely adorable, Karen, but do you really need to buy it? And don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re going to give it away–the possibility of you keeping it for yourself is probably just as high as your Christmas shopping bill if you don’t plan your list ahead.

3. Use cash not card

We’ve already talked about it many times before in this blog: most of the time, it’s much better to use cash, not card. What’s the logic behind this? Simply put, a credit card can fool you into thinking one of two things: 1.) I can always pay it back later and 2.) it’s not that expensive anyway. This doesn’t apply to the cold, hard cash in your hands and feeling it physically leaving you as you hand it over to the cashier.

True story: I was once out for lunch with a college friend along with several other people. We were lined all up at a local fastfood joint when our college friend announced that he’d be treating us since it was a special day for him. A few moments later, he realized he didn’t have enough cash so we ended up going to a casual restaurant that accepts credit cards instead, where he ended up spending more than 100% of what it would’ve cost at the local fastfood.

Of course, if you’re buying online, then you pretty much have no other choice but to use a card. Better yet: load a prepaid card (or even just your PayPal account) with a set amount and use only that!

See also: How To Use A Credit Card Wisely

4. Buy your Christmas gifts in advance

Half the fun of Christmas comes from seeing most other people in a kinder, happier, and generally better mood than they’ve been in the whole year. You may like shopping along with 80% of the population a week before Christmas, but believe me, you can get way better deals if you shop in advance.

And by ‘advance’, I mean if you haven’t bought Christmas gifts yet at this point and are not yet planning to buy one of these days, then you need to start shopping, pronto. Let’s take a look at all the benefits of buying in advance:

  • you won’t have to squeeze into a sea of people during the holiday rush
  • gift wraps and holiday-themed boxes and paper bags may cheaper out of season
  • you have a lot more time to think of the gifts you want to buy
  • you can shop around for more bargains

5. Buy Christmas gifts during sales

And speaking of shopping around for more bargains, you can also shop around during sales to save money on Christmas gifts. But if it’s already November and you still haven’t had the chance to buy anything on sale… there’s still some chance for you! Quick! What’s the biggest sale before the holidays? I’ll give you a clue: it has two words (and it stars with a B)!

black friday sale

Black Friday, arguably the most popular annual sale

If you answered Black Friday, then ding-ding, you got it! Black Friday Sale is the biggest sale right before the holidays. This year, it fell on November 24. Of course, just because it’s Black Friday doesn’t mean all the deals are good (I personally don’t shop during Black Friday!) but if you’re all out of options, this is possibly one of the best deals you can get.

Another awesome option for procrastinators out there? The Amazon 12 Days of Deals! This starts on December 3 and ends on December 25, perfect for those who have neglected to do their Christmas gift shopping. They offer all sorts of deals, from toys to electronics to baby stuff! But of course, the best deals are always earlier in the year, so just remember to be more diligent next year and shop as early as you can!

See also: 7 Things You Didn’t Know Are Putting You In Debt

6. Buy secondhand items as Christmas gifts

I think there’s a lot of controversy behind this, but I see no problem with buying secondhand items as Christmas gifts at all. I use secondhand stuff myself and I’ve got no qualms about it. Of course, I do have limits, like I never buy secondhand clothes or jewelry or any furniture that has a cushion, but I think secondhand items like books, toys, gadgets, and appliances are fine. I’m a lot stricter on gadgets and appliances and I personally have never bought them secondhand, but I use secondhand stuff all the time.

When I was in high school, I never really knew what it felt like to have a new phone, since I always got my mom’s old phone every time she got a new one. As for books, I’ve received and given a lot of secondhand books as Christmas gifts especially in grade school and high school. I’ve always been a bookworm so I really don’t care if a book is new or old–after all, it’s still a book, isn’t it?

As for regifting, I’m not a fan of it at all. I think gifts are pretty sentimental items and I always like assuming the best of people, so I don’t want to just regift something that they may have picked out for me specifically and pretend that picked it out for another person. What I do is I try to see if I can use the item, and if not, I give it away but not as a Christmas gift or anything. Basically sans the fancy gift wrap or packaging. Plus, I let the receiver know that it was a gift to me that I didn’t find personally useful, so I’m hoping to give it a new home. I don’t know, but this works for me.

7. Look for cheaper alternatives

If there’s one thing you have to keep in mind when you’re trying to live a frugal lifestyle, it’s this: there’s always a cheaper alternative to everything. I swear. Sure, it may not be exactly the same as the one that you actually want or are actually trying to buy, but that’s the purpose of a cheaper alternative, right?

amazon compare prices

Feature to compare similar products in Amazon

Don’t be embarrassed to look around for cheaper alternatives if you want to save money on Christmas gifts. Even if you don’t live paycheck-to-paycheck, it’s never shameful to want to get the best deal possible.  Amazon even has the ‘Compare Prices’ feature that shows you the specs and prices of items compared to one another! This is a really helpful feature if you want to compare several items to know which one gives you the best bang for your buck. Like I said above, just take your time, don’t rush, and think things through whenever you’re buying Christmas gifts!

See also: How To Save Money When You’re Living Paycheck to Paycheck

8. Go DIY if you have the time

Don’t have the money but have some time to spare? Try Do-It-Yourself projects! You don’t have to spend a lot on these plus you can select your own materials yourself. The wonderful thing about making DIY crafts for gifts is that by doing them yourself, you’re automatically adding a personal touch that no amount of money can ever buy.

When I was really young, like around 6-9 years old, I really liked popsicle sticks! Popsicle sticks are super cheap and I loved using them to create all sorts of DIY crafts. In third grade, I gave my BFFs “jewelry boxes” made of popsicle sticks that I had stacked and glued together. They were pretty sturdy and I was honestly very proud of them! My dad helped me out by gluing a thin layer of fabric inside to make sure its contents wouldn’t slip through.

I also used to make bracelets for my friends until I was in high school. I don’t know how kids and teens are nowadays, but back then, friendship bracelets and anklets were all the rage at school. We’d make them all the time and exchange bracelets with everybody. There’s this really cool charm bracelet set from Amazon that allows you to make up to 3 bracelets for your friends. For the price, that’s roughly $6 per friend and it’s custom-made too. Wanna save more money? Buy a separate pack of spacer beads to create more charm bracelets! Heck, this pack of metal beads is only $11 for 260 pcs! Now, that’s a steal.

I could write an entire post about different DIY crafts but I think you get the idea! All you really have to do is be creative. Trust me, nothing feels better than a handmade, customized gift from the people you love the most!

9.  Use loyalty cards or cashback opportunities

My father is a huge fan of loyalty cards. In fact, he keeps a ton of them around in a separate card case, since they wouldn’t fit any more in that fat wallet of his. The best use of a loyalty card that I had ever seen in my dad was when he used his points to buy a pair of Converse sneakers for me when I was a kid. I wanted shoes, he didn’t want to spend money, so he used his points. Unfortunately, I was never a fan of them until I got to college and I realized that loyalty cards can be such a lifesaver!

Admittedly, I use them more for flights since I’m huge on budget traveling, but I also like using them for groceries or basically anything that requires me to shell out a large amount of money.

ebates save money on christmas gifts

Use Ebates to save money on Christmas gifts!

This Christmas season, save money on Christmas gifts by using loyalty cards! You can also look around for cashback opportunities like Ebates which allows you to get a certain percentage of your money back after purchasing from over 2,500 stores including Walmart, Target, Apple, Macy’s, Gamestop, and even Amazon. The percentages range from as low as 1% to as high as 40%. Ebates also has a Featured Daily Deals section where you not only get cash back, you also get discounts!

There are so many reasons why Ebates is amazing and I probably might make a post about it one of these days, but for now, all I can say is that if you’re shopping online, there’s no reason for you not to use Ebates. You literally have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Sign up now and get $10 back when you spend your first $25!

10. Organize an ‘Exchange Gifts’ program

One of the things that I dreaded when I was a kid was the ‘Exchange Gifts’ program we’d always have during the holiday season in school. I already sucked at picking out gifts for people I was close to, what more for people I wasn’t even friends with? I couldn’t just give them a bracelet or a popsicle jewelry box, could I?

Now that I’m a lot older though, I realize that exchanging gifts is actually a pretty budget-savvy way to celebrate Christmas together with friends, classmates, or workmates. By organizing one, you don’t have to give gifts to everyone in the room, since it’s expected that everyone will receive something anyway. Plus, you can even agree to a set budget to keep everyone’s expectations realistic. At least now you’ll know that picky Jenna from two cubicles over won’t expect $50 worth of makeup when the office has only set $30 for the Exchange Gifts.

Remember, the real beauty of Christmas lies not in the gifts that you can give, but the love that you can show to other people. And while gifting is a sign of love, it’s not everything! If you really don’t have the money to spend on Christmas gifts this year, why not offer your friends and loved ones your time? Go to the park with them, spend the whole day watching a movie marathon with them, or prepare for your Christmas dinner together. As cheesy as it may sound, what’s really important is that you give love (not just gifts!) on Christmas day. Have a nice holiday season!

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10 tips to save money on christmas gifts