How to Save Money During the Holidays

According to a new holiday shopping poll from Consumer Reports, more than 13 million people are still carrying debt from last year’s holiday season. If you are among them or if you just want to find new ways to cut costs during the holidays, the following tips will help you save on gifts, decorations, groceries, and more.

Create a Gift List and a Budget

The very first thing you should do is determine who you will be buying gifts for over the holiday season. Then, set a gift budget for everyone on your list, taking care to choose reasonable figures that you can afford. You may also want to consider adding up the cost of cards, wrapping paper, gift card activation fees, and other items that accompany each gift. These items can be pricey and may cause you to spend more than you originally planned.

Use Cash, Not Credit Cards

It’s easy to overspend when you shop with a credit card. If you truly want to save, you should rely solely on cash that you have set aside for holiday expenditures. When the cash is gone, the shopping adventure has ended.

Look for Sales

Just about everything is on sale at some point during the holidays. You shouldn’t pay full retail price for anything without checking for a discount first. Most stores publish their weekly sale flyers on their website. Take a peek before going out the door to shop so you know who has the best price.

Get the Sale Price

We have all felt the burn of seeing something on sale a week after purchasing it, but you shouldn’t just let it slide. Many stores will refund a portion of your money if your purchase is made within 30 days of the sale event. Not every store does this, but it is worth asking about should it happen to you over the holidays.

Shop eBay

You can often get a discount on new items by buying them from sellers and stores on eBay. During the holidays, prices are an average of 20 to 30 percent below the retail price. You can also find daily deals, door buster deals, free shipping, and other incentives on the eBay home page in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Start Clipping Coupons

You can often find coupons for food, toys, decorations, and more in your local paper or sales ads. Look for new coupons each week and use them whenever you can. If you like to shop online, you can find coupon codes through sites like eDeals, RetailMeNot, and CouponCabin.

Don’t Pay for Shipping

Shipping costs can make you pay more for an item than you really should. Before paying shipping this holiday season, try looking for the item on sites that either waive the shipping fee or charge minimal fees. Amazon commonly offers free shipping on orders over $25; Overstock charges only $2.95 for shipping no matter what you order; Buy.com frequently provides free shipping deals on a range of products; and shipping is always free at Zappos. You can also find free shipping deals and coupons though FreeShipping.org.

Use Comparison Shopping Sites

Comparison shopping sites like PriceGrabber, Google Product Search, and NexTag can help you find the best deals online and in the store. Before buying anything this year, type it into the search box of at least one of these sites to compare prices and make sure you are getting the best deal possible.

Think Homemade

Handmade holiday cards that have been colored by children or thoughtful, homemade items sometimes make the best gifts. Homemade decorations, such as strings of popcorn and cranberries or jazzed-up pinecones, also create a nice, old-fashioned touch around the house and are easier on the budget than Christmas lights and other ornaments.

Give to Charity Instead

If you want to save money without slashing your charitable donation budget, consider making donations to charities in the names of people you would have bought gifts for. You can also ask others to do the same on your behalf. This will save everyone from getting something they either don’t want or don’t truly need.

Guest post from Bailey Harris, who writes about home owners insurance for www.homeownersinsurance.org.

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