Christmas gift giving can turn into a real expense, and one that you'll carry into the new year if you pay a lot by credit card. There are ways you can save money on Christmas shopping that can whittle your holiday bill down to size. Using more than one could save you several hundred dollars.
Get online coupons before you head out shopping
If you know that you're going to be doing a lot of shopping in certain stores, check their websites before heading out. Many of them have coupons that will entitle you to save a certain percentage off your total purchase, or a flat dollar amount, if you spend more than X amount of money. A $10 off coupon for spending more than $50 can make a difference, especially you have a similar arrangement in two or three other stores that you do a lot of shopping in.
Another reason for checking the websites is that they advertise specials. You might want to check out major purchases if that's what you're going to be buying. An advertised special on a laptop computer or flat screen TV can be a real bargain. But you won't know about them unless you check the websites first.
Avoid the malls
Prices in malls are generally higher because the retailers are paying higher rents. You can save a significant amount of money just by shopping at non-mall stores.
There may be certain items that you can only get at the mall, but don't use those items as an excuse to do all of your Christmas shopping at the mall. Do as much as you can before you get to the mall, and then head to the mall to make those specific purchases.
Another reason to avoid the malls is the sheer number of outlets. Sure, malls are more convenient, but the number of small stores and kiosks can cause you to make impulse purchases that will make you spend more money than you intend to.
Shop on Monday and Tuesday evenings
Crowds cost money when you're shopping and that's why they are best avoided. Crowded stores mean longer times waiting at the checkout stand, less likelihood that you'll buy what you came for, a greater likelihood that you'll overpay (just to get something and get out of the store), and a higher chance that you have to stop for a bite to eat. That's the exact scenario you want to avoid at the holidays.
Saturday's and Sunday's are usually the worst days to shop during the holiday season. The best are Monday and Tuesday, especially in the evenings. Most people are shopped out from the weekend and have returned to work and the last place they want to be is in the stores. Take advantage of that cycle and do your shopping early in the week.
Make liberal use of gift cards
If time is short and money is tight, gift cards are the way to go. This is especially true of those people on your Christmas list who are hard to buy for. If you don't know where to get a suitable gift card, you can always get them a mall gift card that will be good at any store located in the mall. They'll find something they want to buy at some store in the mall, and you won’t have to worry that you might not have gotten them the right gift.
Shop online where ever possible
If you're making a major purchase you should try make your best deal online. This isn't to say that buying online is always cheaper, but it does provide an alternative to retail stores.
You do have to take shipping into consideration, especially if it's a large item that will be fairly expensive to ship. But if the price including shipping is substantially lower than what you could pay at a retail store, then online is the way to go. If the savings are relatively small it will probably be better to buy it at the retail store, especially if time is a factor. Some of the big sites like Amazon has free shipping if a your cart reaches a certain dollar amount.
Individually, none of these techniques will save you a fortune. But taken together they can save on your holiday gift buying by healthy amount. A new year is coming, and the last thing you want to do is open it up with a bunch of bills for the buying you did last Christmas.
Do you have any other techniques that can help save money on Christmas shopping?