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Christmas Shopping on a Budget: 11 Tips

Waited until the last minute to do your holiday shopping? Working on a budget and need to do this with financial savvy? Read this.
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The holidays. The time of year when we celebrate with our families and friends, and break our pocketbooks in the process. If, like me, you’re a procrastinator that purchases a flurry of gifts at the last moment, here are a few ideas for making the experience a little less painful.

11 Tips for Christmas Shopping on a Budget

1. Take Advantage of Those Last-Minute Online Sales

Tons of retailers and brands will offer holiday sales. Often these sales get even better the closer you get to Christmas. Eddie Bauer is offering 50% off at the time of writing this. Macy’s (M) - Get Macy's, Inc. Report has been offering sales off and on depending on the day. Take advantage of these moments, and pick things up that would otherwise be far too pricey.

2. Prioritize Your Loved Ones

There’s a pecking order to everything. Decide from the beginning what you’re going to spend on your parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, and filter it out. Obviously your closest loved ones are the folks that you really need to be concerned with. Distant relatives or friends aren’t really going to be expecting too much of you. If you’re on a budget, don’t succumb to the guilt trip. I’m sure they won’t.

3. Recycle Gift Cards

It might sound pretty bad, but you can create a zero-sum game for yourself if you regift leftover gift cards that people might have given you for your birthday. Just don’t tell anyone you did it.

4. Use Brand Suggestions

Names like Amazon (AMZN) - Get Inc. Report, Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean, etc. actually usually have lists of “best gifts under $50” or “last minute deals” or things of that nature on their websites and catalogs. These businesses have essentially done the work for you. Make your life easy and just select something off of these lists.

5. Have a Game Plan, Make a Budget

Don’t go into this thing without a game plan. If you want to be efficient and not bankrupt, decide ahead of time what your total spending will be for gifts. This will further help you prioritize people, and aid in not getting carried away at the store. It’s not hard to see something awesome in the store or online and think “I have to get that”. You don’t. If you have your budget figured out, you’re less likely to make those impulse moves.

6. Shop at Stores That Have Been Struggling

This is getting pretty in depth, but if you have the market know-how, shop at stores that have been struggling financially. They’re likely trying to create a big holiday quarter in terms of same store sales, and will likely have some great deals to move inventory.

7. Get a Credit Card

It might not be the easiest move, but if you’ve been thinking about a credit card anyway, many businesses like L.L. Bean offer further discounts on holiday shopping if you apply for one of their credit cards.

8. Avoid Unnecessary Commitments

Do not, I repeat, do not commit to silly unnecessary endeavors like “secret Santa” with friend groups or office Christmas parties. These are not key endeavors for the holiday season.

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9. If You’re Shopping for Kids, Don’t Feel the Need to Spend a Lot

Little kids outgrow toys quickly. The beauty of kids is they aren’t old enough to know the difference between an expensive toy and a cheap one. All that matters is whether it’s fun. Avoid electronics, and opt for Puzzles, board games, toy cars, etc.

10. Avoid Paying With a Credit Card

Don’t want to find yourself in the hole from your holiday shopping? It helps to avoid using credit. If you only use what you have at the time, you’re not going to over extend yourself past what you can actually pay.

11. Try This Quick and Thoughtful List

 If you’re really strapped for ideas at the last minute, reference this quick and thoughtful guide of deals I’ve put together for holiday procrastinators everywhere.

  • Buy someone a bunch of small bottles of good bourbons,  or a decanter.
  • Get an Amazon Echo Dot for under $30. Yes, you can still ship them in time.
  • A few bottles of cheap wine (as long as you have tested them before) are a good move.
  • While still far overvalued relative to their actual value (in my simple man opinion), women love any sort of skincare kits, lotions, etc. Though if you’re anything like me, I’d recommend consulting someone that knows what they’re doing when buying them.
  • Streaming services like Netflix (NFLX) - Get Netflix Inc. Report, Amazon Prime and Hulu, are all the rage right now. Find out what services your loved ones use, and get gift cards for them.
  • Keeping in the simplicity of that, gift cards are a strategic must if you’ve procrastinated until the last second in doing your holiday shopping.