Thursday, November 8, 2012

Holiday Shopping: Ten Tips to Save You Money

Yesterday, at Target, a mom was checking out, hiding an Elmo doll under the back of the cart from her toddler.  Her little girl was dancing away, completely unaware, entertaining the cashier.  In seconds, this sly mama whipped out the toy, had it doubled bagged while her girl paid no attention, and quickly placed it back under her cart.

The moral of my story?  Other than I've been "that mom" dozens of times?

The holidays are just about here.

Before you designate a day to go out and spend all your hard earned money on holiday gifts, here are 10 easy and effective tips to save money this season.

1.  If you buy online, check for coupon codes prior to check out.

My favorite coupon code site is  Just the other evening I was shopping on Coldwater Creek.  I was almost through my checkout before I cruised over to to check for any available codes.

Guess what I found? 30% off AND free shipping.

Those few minutes I took to check for coupon codes saved me just over $16.00.

2.  Be mindful of sales.

While it's not easy to stay on top of every sale, discount and deal in town, it's important to be mindful of sales.  Check flyers on Sundays, check websites for coupons before leaving the house.  If you plan ahead, you may be able to find a weekend that you can grab mucho on your shopping list, mostly at a discount.

3.  Save receipts.

Saving receipts may be the single most important "holiday save money" tip.  When you start holiday shopping, use an envelope, coin purse, folder or even a sandwich bag to collect ALL holiday related receipts.  I like to mark receipts with a quick name or word that helps me identify what is on it, such as "Hubby shirt" or "ipod."

If you're out shopping two weeks after you purchased jeans for your Hubby, and you see them for a better price, buy them and return the original.  If you have unused toys, clothes or other goodies after the holidays, return them.  Return, return, return.

It will save you money, I promise.

4.  Shop etsy or make your own gifts.

Homemade gifts are very well received.  Dip pretzels in chocolate and package them in a decorative tin.  Attach a gift card.  Make a quilt, or have your kids paint pottery for their grandparents downtown.  Purchase hand blown glass, homemade body butter or handmade jewelry.  While the latest gadget is surely a winner, you can save a bundle by going the thoughtful, homemade route.  You'll also be supporting small businesses.

5.  Know where the clearance is.

When I go shopping, I immediately look through the sale and clearance racks.  I never buy full price.  If I don't have a coupon, or the item is not on sale, we do not buy.


Clearance is most often found in the back of the store, or around the perimeter.  It's against the walls, in the back corners and on the bottom shelves.  You have to look in the right places to find the best deals.  Our Old Navy, for instance, has their clearance rack in the back left of the girls department, behind a wall.  You mind as well need a map to get there.

Clearance will never be front and center.  Just like name brands at the grocery store, full price is in full view.  The Gap wants you buying what is fresh, new and expensive.

They do not want you buying 10 shirts for $4.97/piece and calling it a day.

6.  Don't be afraid to split your purchase if you have a coupon.

While shopping this week, I had a coupon for $30 off $75 or more.  This offer could not be combined with any coupons or gift cards.  I asked the cashier to stop ringing me up at $75 and let me use the coupon, and start a new purchase with whatever merchandise remained so I could use a gift card.

While some cashiers may be annoyed, they are not paying your Amex.

7.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday will save you money.  Every time.

Black Friday is not just for 2am shoppers waiting in line outside Toys R Us.  Just about every major retailer offers crazy awesome deals ONLINE on Black Friday.  You can shop at home, in your pajamas, and save major green.

The same goes for the Monday after Thanksgiving.  This is called "Cyber Monday," and retailers are trying to target everyone back at work suddenly thinking, Holy Sheet, Christmas is coming...

Take advantage and check online sales.

8.  Think outside the box.  Literally.

Best Buy is not the only place to buy an iPod.  I purchased a refurbished Game Cube for my son several years ago (when Game Cubes were "in") on  I paid $42.00, with shipping.  We still have it today, and it still works.  If you can do without original packaging you can save mucho dollars on many items this holiday season.

Try Overstock, eBay and Craigslist.

9.  Gift baskets.

Gift baskets are a great tool if you need to save money.  Keep your eyes open for clearance skin care items, candles, decorative pillows, nail polishes and other luxury items for the next several weeks.  Target, for instance, has phenomenal deals on the "endcaps" (the shelves at the end of the aisle).  You can find name brand, high end items at deep discounts if you check periodically.  I bought a value double pack of Bedhead Shampoo for $8.00 a few years ago.  If you stick with a theme, (skin and nails, kitchen, bathroom) you can put together a pretty awesome basket full of goodies for a great price.  Fill excess space with candies, wine or gourmet chocolates.

10.  Go thoughtful and useful, instead of extravagant.

Just like buying homemade or making a gift shows care, giving an item or an experience someone wouldn't normally have is a great non expensive gift idea.  Think of a magazine subscription, or a gift card for dinner with a note offering to babysit.  One year my friend gave me a subscription to People magazine.  She is a nurse, and was able to purchase at a deeply discounted rate.  I looked forward to that magazine every Friday.

Make the holidays about family, friends and giving to those in need.  If you keep the holiday in perspective, and start looking for deals NOW, you won't break the bank.  Even better? You'll enjoy the holiday season.

Do you have any tried and true holiday saving tips?  Comment and share!


  1. My advice: If there's a store you shop at regularly, SIGN UP FOR THEIR REWARDS PROGRAM. They ALL have one. Yeah, it might tick off the customer behind you, but guess what? They probably have a member card, too. They'll deal. Then, before you shop, make sure to check the e-mail and ALWAYS ask the cashier if there's a coupon you should have. Sometimes, they'll even give you a store copy just to keep you happy. Sometimes, you have to ask the manager or offer the stink eye, but usually not. I worked retail for too long - I NEVER pay full price, either. EVERYTHING goes on sale eventually. EVERY-THING.

  2. Great tips! I do follow quite a few of these, and I'm glad that you suggested that people buy through Etsy. I've been looking all over Etsy all week and am finding some great gifts. I haven't ordered anything yet, in an attempt to make sure I really want to get it, but Etsy has so many cool options.

  3. I always look to you for these tips. Thanks pretty mama!

  4. During holidays sometimes we can't save money when we are buy our needs on a malls but those tips are really helpful. Thanks for sharing it.


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