10 Tips for Holiday Shopping On a Budget

iStock / Getty Images Doesn’t it seem as if everything is doing its darnedest to

iStock / Getty Images

Doesn’t it seem as if everything is doing its darnedest to bust your holiday shopping budget this year?

There’s inflation, which already seems to be tipping the scales towards pricier gifts this season. There’s the continuing pandemic blowback, which seems to have resulted in a scarcity of options for certain gifts — making some of those that are available more expensive. Finally, most of us are out of practice. After the pandemic turned holiday shopping on its head, we are rusty using the best tricks of the trade to stay within budget this holiday.

Perhaps these 10 tips from retail experts will help remove the rust and set you back on the path to shopping within your 2021 holiday budget.

1. Don’t wait until the last minute

Although it may sound slightly contradictory, getting an early start on holiday shopping will ultimately save you money, says David Sykes, head of Klarna US. Even though it might seem like an early start would result in spending more, it actually is the best way to avoid last-minute overspending and impulse buying, he says. Some 27 percent of Gen Xers and 19 percent of boomers began their holiday shopping before Halloween, which helps to spread out the cost of gift-giving over the course of the season, according to Klarna’s 2021 ”Holidays Unwrapped” report. With supply chain issues making some products scarce this year, waiting too long to start shopping can lead to going over budget.

2. Create an email address just for retailers

The last thing you want to do is share your personal email address with every retailer. You’ll wind up with an avalanche of spam that will bury your inbox. But you can create a second email address that’s specifically for this purpose: to share with retailers for updates on discounts and deals, says Kristen Gall, president of Rakuten Rewards. “A lot of deals are sent by emails exclusively from the stores,” Gall says.

3. Price match with gusto

Many retailers — including Target, Walmart and Best Buy — will often match the competition’s prices when you present them with clear proof of a competitor’s lowball pricing, Gall says. If you have a loyalty to one store — but find a lower price at another — simply bring the proof of pricing, such as a printed ad, into the store you prefer and there’s a reasonably good chance that it will match it, she says. But keep in mind, there’s typically a strict window of time during which stores are willing to match competitor pricing, so make sure you’re familiar with the time limits.

4. Charitable donations can be money-savers

Making charitable donations in someone’s name for the holidays not only helps you — and the receiver — feel better about doing the right thing, but it also can help you save money in two ways, says Gall. For example, she recently made a donation in her daughter’s name to the World Wildlife Fund. For one thing, the person who receives the gift doesn’t know the specific amount you sent — unless you tell them. They only know that a donation has been made in their name. So even relatively small donations can feel big. What’s more, for this particular donation, her daughter also was sent a small stuffed panda bear as a thank-you. Other charities offer things like T-shirts or socks to contributors. “This way you have something that you can wrap up and send that memorializes the contribution,” she says. You can also deduct up to $300 in cash charitable contributions ($600 for couples) without itemizing on your federal income tax return. 

5. Ignore retail sales that look too good to be true

If a retailer’s holiday sale looks too good to be true, it probably is, says Brad Godwin, regional vice president, Central-South, at Shopkick. As the holidays get closer, many retailers boast sales of up to 70 percent off, but that’s often because the original price has been marked up so high that 70 percent off is not nearly the bargain that it appears to be. These kinds of fat markups are particularly common at some department store chains. “Don’t be fooled by 70 percent off sales,” he says. Instead, investigate how the 70 percent off pricing compares with other retailers.