9 Ways to Save: Sticking to a Holiday Budget

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This holiday will be the first we're creating an actual budget. I'm pretty good with finding deals and not overspending for gifts. Last year I bought gifts for 9 people for $120 total. It wasn't easy to do but it was worth the time to be able to get gifts for everyone and not just immediate family. 

But this year we're making a plan. We're not buying for everyone. I'll be doing a lot more baking. I'm also scouring the web all the time looking for deals. Several things have been working for me so far so I thought I'd share my strategy with you.

Piggy Bankphoto © 2009 Carly Watson | more info (via: Wylio)

Nine ways to save money this holiday season

1. Daily deal sites
These are popping up like weeds! So far, I have joined 13. Not all sites have offers in every market yet, but the larger sites have deals posted just about everywhere. Lots of the deals may be offered in a specific city but can be used anywhere. For example today's San Diego Groupon side deal is for $20 worth of calendars or printed gifts from Pulp Factory for only $9. Lots of these sites offer the option to buy the deal as a gift so be sure to search the city your recipients live in. 

These are some of the sites I've signed up for:
The Foundary (gorgeous kitchen and home items)
The Daily Save (San Diego only)
Daily Deal (San Diego only)
Rootz (deals from socially responsible companies)

So many of these deals are good for teachers, coaches, babysitters, the postman or anyone you want to give a little something without spending a lot.

2. Gift card swapping sites
I have a $100 gift card to a store that I don't usually shop in. I didn't know what to do with it so I started looking into swapping sites. Most of the offers I got were for $78 cash or $81 credit on Amazon which isn't bad for something that I've had in my wallet for almost a year. Many of the sites also sell discounted gift cards. The percentages may not be a lot but every little bit helps. Here are a few of the ones I found:

Plastic Jungle
Gift Card Granny
Swap A Gift
Gift Card Rescue

3. Sites that give cash back on purchases
These are best for people who do most or all of their shopping online. The cash back site acts as a shopping hub. Search for the store you want to buy from and follow the link. You'll earn a percentage of your total back and the site will cash you out when you reach a certain dollar amount. 

Occasionally a featured store will offer extra cash back for a limited time. I did a quick search and Piper Lime and Barnes and Noble are both offering 8% cash back through Ebates (up from 2% and 4% respectively). Cash back combined with coupon codes makes for great savings. Shop At Home has a great deal for dining out. $25 gift certificates are usually 80% Off at Restaurant.com! When the $25 certificates went on sale last year for $2 I bought a ton and got cash back into my account. 

4. Turn points into rewards
These sites work best for internet surfers. I've earned a lot points through both sites by spending about an hour a month on them. Lately my points are increasing fastest from MyPoints because of all the coupons I print. Download the toolbars for faster earnings and redeem your points for gift cards. Most of the gift cards I've used for giveaways on this site I earned this way. No money out of pocket!

My Points

5. Swap gently used
There are so many Wii and DS games Tyler wants for Christmas. I'm hesitant to buy them full price in case he either doesn't like them after all of they're too hard (which has happened before). Swap Mamas and ThredUp are both good resources for trading all things child related. 

6. Schedule family visits after the holiday
Since both our parents are divorced, the holidays are always a juggling act. We usually end up in at least four places between Christmas and New Year. When I was working for Godiva, this was totally advantageous. Phil and I would schedule to meet with one set of parents after Christmas and I'd hit the day after sales hard. I'd go into Godiva when the doors opened and snap up all the nicest boxes of marked down chocolates and gifts (they should all be half off the morning after Christmas unless they've changed policies). I was able to get giant boxes for a fraction of the cost.   

7. Plan ahead for next year
I know the stores are insane in the days after Christmas but a little hassle goes a long way in terms of planning for next season. I haven't had to buy Christmas cards, wrapping and tissue paper, gift tags, gift bags, paper plates for cookie trays and treat bags in 2 years because I spent a good half a day hitting all the day after sales. It's helped so much not having to include those items in my budget. 

8. Amazon
There's a reason the site is labeled a retail giant. They know how to do things well. Between the Lightning Deals and Deal of the Day there are opportunities for big savings several times a day.

If you know someone who is getting an MP3 player, you can take advantage of the $5 album sale and free music. If they repeat last year's offer, you'll be able to download one free holiday song per day starting December 1st. When I bought my mom an iPod Shuffle I loaded it with music before I gave it to her and she loved it. Amazon's free shipping through their Amazon Mom program increases the savings.

9. Shop Black Friday
Stores are moving up their deals and offering them before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Almost all the big stores have 'accidentally' leaked their ad scans online already. If you make a detailed list and go out with a plan and the stores you want to shop broken down by location and when they open, you can save big.


Saving money has turned into a labor of love. It does take time but it's so rewarding. I hope some of these are helpful for you. If you have a frugal idea for cutting holiday expenses that I missed please share!  

**UPDATE Groupon is sending out advance emails of big holiday offers. There's a really good one for later this week that I know will go FAST. Sign up ahead of time so you're already a member!
*Some of the links above are affiliate links. This is not a compensated or sponsored post.


  1. Internet marketing provides a lot of opportunities for saving money while shopping. Several cash back sites, coupon sites, rewards programs are available on the net that help shoppers saving online. Such facilities are not available in the market. Moreover, online retailers provide special offers to the online buyers. Being a frugal online buyer, I always use cash back websites like ShopAtHome, AAfter Search and Ebates, and MrRebates.

  2. Cool list! I just started using Ebates this month, and I'm so excited! I'm such a nerd when it comes to coupons and discounts-lol


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