How to Shop this Holiday Season Without Blowing Your Budget

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It seems like it came way to quickly this year, but this week starts the beginning of  Christmas shopping for most of us! AHH! Truthfully, I’m dreading shopping this year. There isn’t really any reason other than I feel like it came too fast and I’m not prepared for it! I feel like I just moved and got settled and now Christmas! For those of you who are like me, here are some tips on how to shop this holiday season without blowing your budget.

Know Your Holiday Budget

Before you even start shopping, the best way to avoid blowing your budget is to start with a plan. Know how much you can realistically spend this year that won’t cause you to break out the credit cards or create more stress for you. Are there areas of your budget you can reduce for the next month so you can use the extra towards your holiday spending? For example, if you cut back on eating out at restaurants or reducing your entertainment budget, for just one month, will that extra money help your holiday budget?

No holiday is worth going into debt over so set realistic expectations for yourself so you don’t cause further stress later!

Know Who You are Buying For

Now that you know your holiday budget, make a list of who you need to shop for this holiday season and how much you plan to spend. If your budget is small this year, can you cut out some people on your list? If you have a big family, instead of buying gifts for everyone, can you draw names instead so you only have one person to buy for? Instead of buying gifts for friends, why not suggest a potluck and bunco night in January or February when things have slowed down? If everyone brings a dish, the cost will be minimal and the night will be something to remember (and possibly a continued tradition for the next year!)

Once you have your list narrowed down, divide up your holiday budget among those on the list and set buying limits for each person so you stay within your budget. Keep this list with you so when you are out shopping, you have it to refer to and you don’t have to go from memory.

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Finally Start Shopping!

Now that you know your holiday budget and who you are are buying for, you can finally start shopping. Here are some tips and tricks to stretch your dollar along the way.

Deal Sites

Deal sites like Groupon & Living Social are a dime a dozen these days and they can provide great discounts on products and services, but ONLY if you need them! It may not seem like much, but spending an extra $30 or $50 each week on things you weren’t planning on can cause you to overspend before you know it!

  • If you plan to use these types of sites to find gifts for the holidays, make sure you have some money in your budget earmarked for this.
  • Once your done with your shopping, unsubscribe to these sites! You won’t be tempted to buy more than you need (or extra gifts for people). You can easily subscribe again after the first of the year when things have settled down.

Discount & Promotional Codes 

You know when you are shopping online and you are getting ready to check out, you see that little box that says “enter promotional code” or “enter discount code”? That means somewhere out there, there is a code that you can enter to save you money on your purchase! The trick is to find it. Here are some ways I find discount codes when I’m shopping online:

  • Retailmenot.com – This is probably one of my favorite sites to find discount or promo codes. It seems to be fairly accurate and it’s easy to navigate.
  •  Google Search – If I’m shopping online and didn’t find a code at Retail Me Not, my next choice is to do a simple search for “2011 promotional code x.com” or “2011 discount code x.com” where the x is the store or site name. I add the year in there too because  a lot of times old expired codes will come up that don’t help me in my search and I want to filter those out.

Price Comparison Sites

AllYou Magazine ran an article in their November 18th issue  with the most popular price comparison websites and why. I’ll admit, I don’t use these types of sites that often but it’s probably a good idea for me to start. Here are the best sites as suggested by AllYou to compare prices before you buy:

  • Pricegrabber.com – You can search for an item and see its price history for the past 6 months.
  • Google.com/products – This site is customizable and it allows you to narrow your search to new products, items with free shipping and create a shopping list and share it with your friends and family.
  • Bizrate.com – Not only can you search for products online, you can see reviews and current coupon codes from this site
  • Slickdeals.net – A great forum where you can interact with other people for the best deals
  • Nextag.com – There’s a lot going on on this site, you can see the price history for a product and even find discounts on hotels, flights and cars.

Shopping Apps

Shopping apps make bargain shopping much easier from your smartphone! Here are a few apps I found that make price comparison quicker and easier for you:

  • ShopSavvy – Let’s you compare prices to nearby stores and online
  • Amazon Price Check (for iPhone) – Let’s you instantly check prices on millions of products
  • The Coupons App (Andriod) - Unbelievable coupon savings and shopping deals at your favorite stores, restaurants & gas stations – coupons always at your fingertips, everywhere you go!
  • Compare Everywhere - Compare Everywhere is an Android application that allows shoppers to find the current price of a product across dozens of stores in an instant.
  • RedLaser -  Shop smarter. RedLaser Barcode Scanner searches for low online and local prices from hundreds of thousands of retailers. Features product results from Google, eBay, Milo, Shopping.com, and more!

Stack your Discounts

To get the most for your money, try stacking your discounts along the way. Here are a few suggestions for stacking discounts online:

1.  Shop from cash back sites to earn cash for shopping. A few sites that offer cash back are:

  • MyPoints – Earn points for your purchases when you shop through MyPoints & redeem your points for giftcards
  • Mr Rebates – Right now they are offering a $5 sign up bonus
  • Ebates – Currently offering a $5-$10 sing up bonus
  • BigCrumbs – Cash back shopping your way
  • Pennyful – Another cash back site

2. Check for free shipping codes. Never pay for shipping without at least looking to see if there is a free code! Check for free shipping at:

  • Retailmenot – In addition to having promo codes, Retailmenot also lists free shipping codes.
  • Free Shipping Codes – Nice list of free shipping codes

3. Buy discounted gift cards to use for your purchases. Buying discounted gift cards is a great way to pay for your purchases. A few sites that offer discounted gift cards are :

  • Giftcardgranny – Buy & sell discounted gift cards
  •  Cardpool – Buy gift cards for up to 35% off or sell gift cards for 92% cash back
  • Plastic Jungle - Buy, sell & exchange gift cards
What are your tips and tricks for shopping during the holiday season to make sure you don’t blow your budget? Please leave a comment and let me know!

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Comments

  1. I bake small loaves of bread (banana or pumpkin) as gifts for teachers and neighbors.  I also collect the many coupons from retailers and use those for misc. gifts.  Many retailers will send out $10 coupons on a $10 purchase.  I stock up on gloves, lotions, etc.

  2. My wife makes alot of her gifts, whether aked goods or something personal.

  3. These are a lot of good resources for saving money.  We will sometimes make gifts as well or hand out framed family pictures.

  4. I hate shopping, but I love shopping online.  I think it is because I use shopping bots and find the lowest prices. 

  5. Maria@moneyprinciple says:

    All very sensible suggestions and good resource. This post made me wonder though: when people put all this energy in saving a bit (comparison, deals, coupons etc.) do the cost their time? Just a thoguht.

  6. Fantastic resources for online shopping. I am addicted to online shopping, tho so maybe not the best thing for me to have fund.

  7. Haha! But if your going to shop you might as well save right! :)

  8. That’s a very good point Maria. I definitely believe your time is a factor in shopping. I think for me, I would spend a little bit of time to try to compare, find coupon codes etc which would probably be all of 15-20 minutes. I wouldn’t go crazy with it but I would try to see what I could find for a little better price before completing my purchase.

  9. Those price comparison sites are the best.  One good thing you can do is get the exact model number of the product that you want, and then just go to amazon and look at their partner deals.  If you are willing to look at used products then you can usually find some pretty good deals. 

  10. Great tips!  I also use CamelCamelCamel.com to save on items on Amazon.  They will notify you when a price drops to your target number.  They also show the price history to help you choose that target price. 

  11. Mr, Thriftability and I have cut back on our entertainment/dining out expenses in order to free up money for holiday gift-giving. I love online shopping, and I definitely take the time to look online for a discount of code (for free shipping, % off, etc.) before I click to order. Great post! :)

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