How To Save Money When Holiday Shopping

how to save money

This is not a budget-conscious fashion blog. But I do have a passion for efficiency, which sometimes aligns with budget-conscious practices. Allow me to explain. As a personal stylist, my goal is to create authentic personal style via high-quality garments, while minimizing wasted time, materials, and money. In short, I detest waste. I don’t like to dilly-dally with our time, and I don’t like to take up space in our closets with items we don’t wear or love. I also don’t like to spend money on items we don’t need or that fall below our standards of fabulosity or utility. Yes, I regularly put a $1,000 bag or garment on a client, but it is a glorious bag or garment that my client will wear regularly, making its cost per wear less than that of $100 item that one never ends up wearing. So, although “price is not an object” when I work with most of my clients, by eliminating wasteful spending and emphasizing thoughtful purchasing, we end up saving a lot of money. Which brings me to how to save money when holiday shopping…

I received a press release with holiday saving tips from Jack Gillis, the Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of America, a national organization of 250+ nonprofit consumer groups. It was founded in 1968 to advance consumer interests through research, advocacy, and education. I agree with so many of his tips, so I am sharing my favorites with a few notes from me, as well as a few additional tips of my own at the end.

Make A List, Check It Twice: Decide how much you can spend this holiday and stick to it. When you make your list, include an amount for each person, and if you know what you’re getting them, what you expect to pay for the item. Adding your list up at the kitchen table can be an eye-opener, so make adjustments early rather than when you are running through the stores or pounding on your keyboard. And when you’re shopping, keep a running total of your spending. It’s amazing how keeping tabs on your total will protect your wallet as it fills with receipts.

Vanessa’s Note: This is my favorite one because I love lists and planning! This also helps you ensure you brainstorm the perfect gift idea, versus rushing at the end of the shopping season and settling on something less than special. Check out this year’s holiday gift guide for inspiration.

You Gotta Shop Around: You can easily save 10 percent, or considerably more, by comparing prices. When shopping around online, be sure you purchase from a secure site, review receipts for accuracy, and be mindful of shipping costs. If free shipping is available with a minimum purchase, be sure the additional items are really needed and don’t put you way over the ‘free shipping’ requirement.

Vanessa’s Note: Shopping around can take up time, and time is money. This is where my passion for efficiency steps in. Depending on who you are, ask yourself, is it more valuable to save your time or save your money? If you’re shopping online, this is easier. Simply Google the item you are looking to buy, and other stores and prices will show up.

Give The Scammers Goose Eggs, Not Your Money: If you see a popular item online for much less than the typical price, beware — it could be from a fraudster. That amazing deal may simply be a way to get your credit card information. Stick with companies you know and steer clear of email and social network offers from unfamiliar sellers.

Santa’s Receipts Are Gold: Whether buying online or in-store, keep all receipts — they are gold! Without a receipt, retailers will usually refund the item’s current price, not what you actually paid.  And if you find an item cheaper elsewhere, many retailers will match the lower price, but only if you have the receipt.

Don’t Let the Grinch Steal Your Identity: Identity thieves love unsecured wireless networks — so only connect to networks that require a security key or certificate.  If you use a wireless connection at home, be sure that the security features are turned on and set your own password, rather than using the default password.

Ask About Returns: Before checking out, double check return policies and time limits. Some retailers will let you return online purchases to their stores to avoid return shipping charges, others actually provide free return labels.

Checkout With Care: Watch out for “savings” coupons and clubs when checking out — you may be signing up for a monthly program and your credit or debit card number could be transferred to another company. These programs typically charge $10 to $15 a month and the rigmarole to cancel can be a hassle.

Don’t Get Wrapped Up In Debt: Avoid borrowing money for holiday gift giving. Remember, the old adage — it’s the thought that counts — not the cost. If you use a credit, rather than debit card, be sure you know the day your payment is due so that high interest charges don’t evaporate the great buys you made.

Vanessa’s Note: Most of you reading this have the means to not go into debt for the holidays, but I left this in for those who may not, and to emphasize the thought of gift giving. Sometimes a beautiful letter is more of a gift than an object. If you have artistic talents, a drawing, song or painting of yours is more valuable than an uneducated purchase. It is better to create something thoughtfully, than to buy thoughtlessly. If someone is hard to shop for, and you’ve racked your brain for what to get them, sit down and instead think about what you can make them, or better yet, what you can do for them. Nothing beats a massage, a home-cooked meal, babysitting, or house help — you get the picture. Reducing thoughtless purchasing is not only good for the pocketbook, it’s better for the environment too. 

Re-Gift: (This one is from me — you can tell because there is no pun.) I am a huge proponent of re-gifting. This could mean gifts you have received, or even items you bought for yourself, tags attached, that you don’t really love or need. Obviously, make sure the gift you are re-gifting is going to someone who would actually like it. Nothing worse than giving a heavily perfumed lotion from Bath and Body Works to your “crunchy” friend who is known for only using organic unscented products.

Shop Your House: (Another pun-less one from me.) Has a friend or family member really loved something you own? If you don’t need it anymore, or are bored with it, polish it up, wrap it up, and hand it over. We have so much stuff we don’t really need that others would just love. Again, this is all about eliminating wasteful spending and making sure we only have things we need and love.

That’s A Wrap (On Wrapping Paper): (Last one from me — pun included!) I am against purchasing wrapping paper — it is such a waste on so many levels. Instead, many stores, like Nordstrom, have complimentary wrapping paper. And if you followed my advice from last year, you saved your gift bags and wrapping paper from previous gifts and will use them over and over again. I also love giving gifts in beautiful boxes and cloth bags that we all just happen to have lying around. You could even try wrapping gifts in newspaper, catalogues, or any other paper or bags hanging around. It can be quite kitschy, quirky, or artistic.

Environmental Ask: If you must buy wrapping paper, use biodegradable wrapping paper, please and thank you!

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