Christmas is just around the corner. Are you prepared for holiday shopping? It’s the time of the year to celebrate. You might be very excited about it, but also stressed out about how much strain the season of giving will put in your wallet. 

The National Retail Association is expecting $720 billion to be spent this year on holiday shopping. That is A LOT of money, and to many, that can represent going into some form of debt.

Are you aware as well that there are over 13 million Americans still trying to pay off last year’s holiday expenses? Now THAT is an even more shocking number. 

If you’re already in red numbers, trying to stay away from the social pressure of gift-giving can cause you lots of tension. There is no reason to go deeper into debt just to show others how much you love them.

Yes, receiving gifts is fantastic, but giving any form of showing love and appreciation is what is season is all about, right? Do not worry, there are plenty of ways to save some bucks while getting the gifts for your loved ones and telling them how much you care.

Don’t get wrapped up in all the fuzz and follow these tips to protect your finances and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year. 

1. Budgeting is Key.

Budgeting is the answer to any financial issue. And sticking to it, of course!

Before you head out to the mall, make a list of all the people you will be gifting to, and write down what you want to get them. Think about sincere presents that will put smiles on their faces.

Search online and compare prices for every gift, and after you’re done, add up and compare. If you will be overspending, something you want to avoid at all costs, search for alternatives, coupons, or any kind of promotion that can help you make that special someone happy for less.

And also, never forget that this is about being together and creating joyful moments. Value these experiences over material things. 

2. Track Your Spending.

Overspending will definitely sour the holidays for you. Write down your purchases on a notebook, or even better, download an app (I’ve listed some here) that can make things easier by keeping track of everything for you.

Take advantage of technology! Apps can help you make everything more efficiently and prevent mistakes when you add up or forget something, that way you can spend more time on important things and enjoy instead of stressing about adding up numbers on a calculator.  

3. Shop Early.

The early bird gets the worm. Catch sales throughout the year and buy that item you know will make your mom, sister, best friend extremely happy.

Leaving everything for the last moment will make it more likely for you to overspend or find the perfect gift at a higher price. Remember the law of offer and demand. Being organized about your plans will reduce stress and social pressure, so avoid gift shopping when everybody else is doing it.

 4. Find a Way to Cut out on Gifts.

We’re not talking about dropping people out of the list, which can be taken as an offense. A great option is to gather with family and friends and organize a personalized gift exchange, like a Secret Santa.

Have everyone create a wish list on Amazon.com to make things easier when shopping. You can even set a budget so nobody feels like they over or underspent.

Another thing to do is organize fun games during Christmas with inexpensive stocking stuffers as prizes. The point is to have fun and have a laugh!

5. Buy Online.

Online shopping does not only mean convenience, it means you can work on your own time, with no pressure. It means you can check and compare prices on different websites. Do it early so that you may benefit from discounts and cheap shipping options. 

Other benefits of online shopping? You can get special discounts if you follow your favorite retailers on their social media.

Check online for websites that offer exclusive coupons and codes. Look for retailers that allow you to have your purchases sent to the store free of shipping and handling costs and then use all your vouchers when you pick everything up.

If you will have to make a trip to the mall, just keep yourself focused and away from anything that might cause you to overspend. Codes can be found on websites like retailmenot.com or secretprices.com, and of course, nowadays, every retail store has to have an account on the most popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

You’re guaranteed a reward for doing something as cost-free and simple as clicking on their follow button. 

6. Make your own presents.

Homemade is the thing right now so take advantage of your craftiness! Go on Pinterest and check out the cool gift ideas that you can make yourself.

Maybe you like to crochet or want to make a unique picture frame, or beading and jewelry is your thing. Handmade presents are memorable and one of a kind and the fact that you spent time creating it makes it even more special. That is a great way to show how much you care.  

7. Regift.

Regifting is not necessarily wrong. It has just gotten a terrible reputation over the years. Let’s look at it like this: You’re just finding the right recipient for an item that was wrongly given to you, right? 

It’s ok to regift, just be careful not to break the regifting rules: don’t give the item to the person that gave it to you in the first place, and don’t give it to a mutual friend or family member.

They might find out, and it can hurt their feelings. Find someone else that will be happy with this item that you won’t be using.

Maybe a friend from work gave you a pink toaster last year. You already have one, and pink doesn’t go with your kitchen. But your cousin is super quirky, loves pink and just got married. Bingo! There’s the perfect recipient for this gift. She’s happy, and you’ll be saving yourself some money!

8. Purchase and Sell Discounted Gift Cards.

Did you know you can buy $100 gift cards for your favorite store but just pay 80$ for them? Yes! Discounted gift cards are a great way of saving money!

You can find them on websites like giftcardmall.com and spend them on stores like Sephora, Apple, Target, etc. They are usually 5 to 30% off their face value.

And if you happen to own a gift card from a store you don’t like, you can always sell instead of having that money sitting down in an empty drawer. 

9. Use Cash, No Plastic.

Leave all your credit and debit cards at home when you go on holiday shopping, and instead, put the amount worth of each gift in envelopes so that you don’t overspend.

This will protect your budget plan and allow you to spend a stress-free Christmas. You want to start the following year in the best financial shape, right? I’ll repeat it: stick to the budget plan. 

Getting caught up in the shopping frenzy is very easy. Everything surrounding this holiday is set up to make you want to spend your hard-earned money, but the key is to remember that the spirit of Christmas is about love and peace, not about the presents.

Focus on your family, and stick to a sensible spending plan that will make you happy during the holidays and after. Christmas is the most joyous time of the year! Keep it that way!