How To Save Money On Holiday Shopping

The holidays are here, and so is the holiday shopping season. The average person spends around $900 on gifts for the holiday season. That amount doesn’t even account for other holiday spending, such as travel costs, food, get togethers, decorations, and more. Some people even go into credit card debt to spend for the holidays, but…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 27, 2023

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

The holidays are here, and so is the holiday shopping season.

Black Friday 2017 is right around the corner and holiday shopping has begun. The average person will be spending a large amount of money on Christmas and other holidays! #blackfriday #blackfriday2017 #holidayshoppingThe average person spends around $900 on gifts for the holiday season. That amount doesn’t even account for other holiday spending, such as travel costs, food, get togethers, decorations, and more.

Some people even go into credit card debt to spend for the holidays, but is that really worth it?

I’m going to guess that it’s not.

Putting your holiday spending on a credit card is a major problem because you will eventually have to pay off that debt.

Plus, interest and other finance charges may be added, meaning that small amount you put on your credit card will grow into a much larger number. This can impact your credit score, your credit history, your debt to income ratio, and more.

Going into debt for gifts and holiday events just adds stress, and it takes away from the true meaning of the holiday season.

The holidays can be quite expensive, but they don’t have to be if you are mindful of how you spend and save for the holidays.

Related money-saving tip: Ibotta is a money saving app that I recently signed up for. With Ibotta, you just need to save your Target, grocery, and other store receipts, and scan them. You then earn cash back on your shopping trips, and it’s super easy! Plus, if you sign up through my link, you’ll receive an extra $10 when you try Ibotta. This can be a great way to save money on the holidays!

Below are my tips on how to save money holiday shopping.


Set a budget for holiday shopping.

Before you make a list of all the things you want to buy for the holidays, you should set a realistic holiday budget. This will help you analyze your holiday spending so that you can spend less money and not go into any holiday debt.

I recommend seeing how much money you already have set aside for the holidays, analyze how much you think you will spend, and figure out what you need to do so that you don’t go over your spending budget.

Items you’ll want to think about and possibly include in your holiday budget are:

  • Gifts
  • Transportation costs
  • Food for parties and get togethers
  • Stamps
  • Holiday cards
  • Wrapping supplies
  • Decorations

And more.

Try to sit down and brainstorm. It helps to think about all of the things you spent money on in previous years. I’m sure you will be shocked by your spending!


Use cash when holiday shopping.

Similar to a no spend challenge, using only cash when shopping can prevent impulse purchases.

A cash budget works because you can see how much money you have to work with. If you spend all of your cash, then you won’t be able to purchase anything else.

This can help you separate your “wants” from your “needs” when shopping.

When doing your holiday shopping with cash, you will have to carefully plan out each purchase, where you will be shopping, and so on.


Give just one gift.

If you’re running low on time or money, or even if you just want to try something different, you may just want to give one gift to each person. I know many people give numerous gifts around the holidays, and while they may be able to afford it, I’m sure there are many who cannot afford to spend that way. There maybe others that are choosing to approach the holiday gift giving season with a more minimalist approach.

Remember, the holidays are not about the gifts. Instead, focus on what you truly can afford, even if that means you can only give one present. It’s the thought that counts, not the gift or the amount of gifts that you give!


Get cash back on your shopping.

Sign up for a website like Ebates where you can earn CASH BACK for spending how you normally would online. The service is free too!

Plus, when you sign up through my link, you will receive an extra $10 cash back!

Ebates is a top website I use when I do any online shopping.


Find ways to cut back right now.

There are lots of little things you can do that may help you save money now and well into the future. Even if you can only find $100 extra dollars to spend, that’s still $100 more than what you had before.

You can:

  • Get rid of your cable.
  • Find a more affordable cell phone plan.
  • Eat out less. Eat out just one or two times less this month and you’ll have more holiday spending money!
  • Negotiate your car and home insurance bills.
  • Cancel your gym membership.

Read about even more ways to save money at 30+ Ways To Save Money Each Month.


Find ways to make additional holiday spending cash.

If you can’t find ways to cut back, then you may want to find ways to make more money. This can make the holiday season a little more enjoyable as you won’t have to go into debt or use your savings in order to purchase holiday gifts.

Plus, there are tons of things you could do to make extra money. If you’re looking for a part-time job, there are plenty of places that are looking for holiday help, such as UPS, Kohls, Macy’s, at Christmas tree lots, restaurants, and more.

There are many other ways to make extra money as well:

  • 75+ Ways To Make Extra Money – Yes, there are over 75 ways to make extra money listed in this blog post!
  • Rent an extra room in your home. If you have extra space in your home, then you may want to rent it out. Read A Complete Guide To Renting A Room For Extra Money.
  • 7+ Ways To Make $500 By The Weekend – Making extra money doesn’t have to be impossible. In fact, you can even learn how to make money this weekend! Too many people throw away the idea of making extra money because they think it’s difficult, will take too much time, or that it’s just not possible.
  • 10 Ways To Make Extra Income During the Holidays – A lot of you were wanting to know about the different ways to make extra income during the holidays, such as how to make extra money and for many different reasons: to increase your monthly income, to save more money, to help pay for the holidays, to have more Christmas money, and so on.
  • Use Swagbucks for your online searches. Swagbucks is something I don’t use as much, but I do occasionally earn Amazon gift cards with very little work. Swagbucks is just like using Google to do your online searches, except you get rewarded “points called SB” for the things you do through their website. Then, when you have enough points, you can redeem them for cash, gift cards, and more. You’ll receive a free $5 bonus just for signing up today!
  • Answer surveys. Survey companies I recommend include InboxDollars, American Consumer Opinion, Pinecone Research, Survey Junkie, and Harris Poll Online. They’re free to join and free to use! You get paid to answer surveys and to test products. It’s best to sign up for as many as you can, as that way you can receive the most surveys and make the most money.
  • 10 Things I’ve Done To Make Extra Money – If you are interested in finding a side hustle idea for yourself, you may be interested in one of the things I’ve done in the past to earn side income.
  • Ways To Make An Extra $1,000 A Month – Here are different ways to make an extra $1,000 a month.
  • 10 Ways To Make Money Online From The Comfort of Your Home – If you prefer to work from home like I do, then this is the side hustle post for you.

As you can see, there are TONS of things you can do in order to make money for the holidays.


Secret Santa is your friend.

If part of your holiday celebration is gift giving with all of your family and friends, you may want to think about doing a gift exchange where each person only gives one meaningful gift to just one person. This can save a lot of money, as well as a lot of time. Plus, you’ll be able to put more thought into a gift as you’ll just be giving one.

This is something that we do with my husband’s family. The younger children still get gifts from everyone, but all of the adults just do an exchange. It makes it much easier and more enjoyable!


Shop for the holidays as soon as you can.

Starting your holiday shopping now is better than waiting until the last day- or even the day of!

There are many savvy shoppers who start up to a full year before the holiday they are celebrating.

You may call them crazy, but I’m sure it saves them a lot of stress and money.

The earlier you start shopping, the more money you are likely to save. This is because you won’t be in a rush to find what you are hoping to buy, and you will be able to shop the sales as they come. When someone is low on time, they are more likely to buy items they may not need at a price that is higher than usual.

Related money-saving tip: I highly recommend signing up for a FREE 30 day Amazon Prime account, as this can really help you save money when it comes to holiday shopping. This free 30 day account gives you unlimited FREE two-day shipping, you can borrow Kindle books, watch movies and TV episodes, and more.


Start saving early.

While this tip won’t necessarily work for this holiday season, you can start saving and preparing for Black Friday 2018!

By saving a little bit of money each day, each week, or even each month, you’ll make the sting of holiday season spending a little less painful, as you’ll already have saved and budgeted for it!

One way is to take part in a holiday savings challenge, such as the $20 Savings Challenge.

The $20 Savings Challenge is a great way to easily save $1,040 this year without noticing! All you have to do is put aside $20 each week for a year, meaning you’ve saved $1,040.


Lastly, remember the true meaning of the holidays.

No matter what holiday you celebrate, remember the real reason for celebrating.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to be happy, instead think about spending more quality time with your loved ones.

How much money will you spend this holiday season?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. I prefer to use credit cards to cash. I love the rewards they provide. I also think I spend less with cards(which is abnormal) as I track that spending more closely. When I buy with cash, it’s coded as “cash” in my tracking. When I use a card it goes into a specific category of my tracking that I give much more attention to.

    1. I prefer credit cards as well 🙂 However, for the average person, cash is better.

  2. Patty

    I agree that Christmas can be so stressful for everyone. I think we should speak up in our families if we can’t afford the gift exchanges and not worry about the backlash from others, especially since some of them may not understand what it’s like to budget. Your post gives so many great options for people to save money!

    1. Yes, I agree! Speak up – a true friend or family member will find other ways to have a great holiday season.

  3. Great list! I agree with secret Santa. We do this each year for all the kids (18 and under) in the family. We put a $ limit and every year it’s a hit and saves so much money. Lol!

  4. My husband and I have actually decided not to get anyone gifts this year besides our son. That may seem an extreme way to save money, but we have goals! I love the idea of secret Santa though. We will most likely be doing that next year!

  5. We play White Elephant with our family but I’ve been wishing for the past 2 years to just do a Secret Santa. It’s difficult to buy for a crowd and have someone who doesn’t want it to get the gift you brought. Getting just one present with intent is much more important and cost effective.

  6. I tend to buy Christmas gifts during the month of November but I fount this post really helpful:D

  7. These are great tips. I am so bad at holiday shopping and always wait until the last minute, even though there are only a couple people I buy presents for, ha! Maybe I should make one of the purchases on black friday 🙂

  8. SMM

    Thanks for the tips. Using cash is a great idea as it forces you to stay within your budget. It actually feels like a tangible thing leaving you. Also in-store shopping sometimes works better than online because you scour for deals and see special tags that are not always available online. Plus with smartphones you can double-check online right when you have the item in front of you at the store!

  9. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    We earn money for the holidays all year ’round by using a rewards credit card. At the end of the year, we use the rewards to pay off all of our Christmas expenses. We also have had a lot of success by shopping early and shopping clearance areas for gifts.

    1. Nice! How much do you have earned right now?

  10. Good morning Michelle,

    I’m so happy you brought up this topic about Black Friday shopping and getting the most discounts online. One thing I really love about shopping online is not having to waste gas money and get dressed to go to the shopping mall to purchase specialty items I have a keen eye for. In other words, I don’t want to get dressed and go to the shopping mall and being around people just a visitor sneaker store and purchase a pair of Air Jordans. I appreciate the comfort of shopping online from home half dressed and getting deeper discounts online vs. going to the store and wondering if I’m truly getting a discount.

    One thing many people don’t know is they’re leaving money on the table when they shop online without using discount coupon applications. What do I mean by this? I started using the application downloaded to my internet web browser. The moment I started doing that, sites I love shopping on comes to find out are part of the RetailMeNot merchant network. I’ve purchased sneakers and other clothing using the RetailMeNot application. I didn’t believe in using it at first because I was unsure if RetailMeNot would send the money to me as a cash back rebate. Lo and behold they sure did. And this is not fuff. The money RetailMeNot sent me whether I’m shopping on Black Friday or anytime during the year I apply to my bill so that my overall bill will be reduced. I can also draw the RetailMeNot rebate money out of the ATM machine if I wanted cash. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?

    So I was reading the part on your blog will you mention putting your holiday and Black Friday spending on the credit card is a major problem because you will eventually have to pay off that debt. To be honest, I sometimes use a specific credit card whereas they reward you potentially up to 2% cash back for most purchases. This credit card that I do have and use has been rewarding me with points. Now I can’t say a previous credit card that I had rewarded me with points, as I’m no longer with the previous credit card company due to them trying to charge me interest and finance charges long after I paid off my credit card account. I recently received a sneaky email from the previous credit card company that I now having a closed account with trying to say I owe a balance when I zeroed everything out before closing my previous credit card account. Wouldn’t you agree that’s called thievery? But that’s an entirely different story.

    Anyways, I could go on and on about the credit card thing. But I don’t want to bore you. 🙂

    Thanks so much Michelle for this thought-provoking post on Black Friday spending and credit and debt. 🙂

    P.s. if I have any grammatical errors or spelling or additional tip of graphical errors, please excuse me. I’m using the speech recognition on my smartphone to write this blog comment. I have more content for you coming in the near future. I love leaving lengthy blog comments as I continue to show my support for your wonderful finance blog. 🙂

    1. Yes, online coupon codes are great and so easy to use!

  11. Our family doesn’t spend much for the holidays. We usually get a small gift and get together for dinner. My husband’s side of the family is significantly bigger, but we do secret Santa instead. These are all great ideas to not overspend for the holidays!

  12. The best way to save money on Black Friday is to not buy anything on Black Friday 🙂

    Not trying to be snarky… great post, great tips. But as the years have gone by my family has decided we need more love and less stuff. So that makes it easy to save money for us.

    1. Haha, I agree! I have actually never bought anything on Black Friday.

  13. Terumi Davis

    Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for the helpful tips! I completely agree that setting a budget for the holiday shopping is essential! Prior to being diligent about setting a holiday budget, I was spending a ridiculous amount of money.

    Now I use an app called Santa’s Bag. I set an overall budget, select how much to spend for each gift recipient and other details about the gift. Sticking to a budget has made shopping less stressful and more enjoyable.

    1. I’ll have to look into that app, thanks!

  14. Damn Millennial

    I would add don’t even leave your house to stay on budget! With Amazon there is no need to shop in store (unless its just your thing). Personally I love ordering everyone’s gifts to my door, wrapping them at home, and then putting them in the car and heading to my family’s house.

    It is so easy and there is no impulse buy just click confirm the total and its on the way…

  15. We aren’t Black Friday shopping this year, but we usually like to shop online on Cyber Monday.

  16. Yah! We’re all set to utilize the Black Friday deals and offers as much as we can. This time of the year, one can either save money by purchasing important things they need at a cheap price,while other may spend too much on things they actually don’t need. You should think before going for a buy. Happy Shopping Everyone!

  17. We have a Christmas budget and while I allot up to a certain amount per person, if I can buy an item on sale and come in under budget I will! This year it looks like 2 gifts per person. I definitely try to keep it simple, shop early and we do not buy for everyone – only immediate family. Some years I also made homemade gifts and gave them to extended family but now that I have a toddler I just don’t have as much time for that. Homemade gifts are usually a good way to save money though!

  18. Stu J Brown

    Good post thank you. Setting a budget and taking advantage of cashback opportunities are both vital things I’ve used before to keep my holiday spending down, and allow for a little more travel time in the new year. A little goes a long way!

  19. It’s this time of year when I wish I would have started Christmas shopping in July. lol