Woman in Christmas sweater shopping for presents

The Ultimate Guide To Saving During The Holidays

Arizona Federal Staff

The holidays themselves are an ultimate Catch-22; you’ve never been invited to more events, parties and get-togethers, but you’ve also never been more conscious of how little cash you have to spend on them. On top of that, there are gifts, decorations and travel expenses to consider.

Here’s how to enjoy the season without breaking the bank.

1. Check for group discounts 

If you’re attending holiday-themed events with friends, they can often be pricey if you each pay individually. Luckily, you can usually get a discount if you go in as a group – look at online discount hubs like Groupon to see what type of holiday steals are available where you live. If all else fails, you may be able to finagle a discount from the event organizers themselves. Just call, make your case, and see if you can get some cash knocked off your ticket or fees.

2. Pick off-peak times

Another way to enjoy holiday events and spectacles for less is to attend on weekdays instead of weekends. Prices are often discounted for matinees and weekday shows.

3. Vacation off the beaten path

Want to enjoy a cheap vacation while simultaneously avoiding the teeth-pulling sensation of spending time with your distant relatives? Sometimes you can get awesome deals for vacations during the holiday season. Look into locales that are technically in their “off season,” which means that hotel rates and flight prices could be discounted.

4. Rock your inner Secret Santa

Potlucks and Secret Santas are inexpensive ways to have a great time with your friends without feeling like you’re going to have to take out another mortgage on your house. All you need is some eggnog, a hat to pull names out of, some half-decent recipe for artichoke dip, and you’re all set.

5. Set expectations

The reality is that many people are on a budget. You can give only so much of your time and money. Spend some time setting clear expectations with your family and friends about what to expect during the holidays this year. Use some humor and just be honest about what you can and can’t do.

Let your family and friends off the gift-giving hook, too. Maybe even share ideas that will make (almost) everyone happy. 

You can let people be generous but lift the pressure off of them by providing fun, but frugal suggestions. Some ideas include homemade gifts, a white elephant party, or even a holiday season without gifts. Instead of spending money, spend more time with your friends – throw a potluck, a game night, or participate in a holiday fun run. 

6. Set a budget

If you’re unable to change other people’s minds about gift-giving this holiday season, then be clear with yourself about what you can and cannot do financially. Take a close look at your finances and set a holiday budget and stick to your plan.

7. Get social

It’s amazing how many deals you can find from your favorite retailers this time of year, especially if you use social media. Look on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or your favorite retailer’s website for coupon codes or upcoming sales. Don’t pay full price for your items.

8. Trim the fat

How long has it been since you took a good look at your monthly expenses? Look for subscriptions or services that you aren’t using or automatic debits for forgotten bills or purchases.

Did you discover that your grocery, electric, and fun budget line items have increased significantly since the last time you took a hard look at your expenses? Sock away as much of your freed-up cash as possible so that you can use cash for your future purchases. 

9. Sell stuff

Go through your home and look for items that you’re no longer using. If they are in good condition, sell them online – use sites like OfferUp and eBay or have a garage sale if you’re in a warm-weather state.

Savings apps and websites

If you’ve already decided there’s no getting around buying holiday gifts, then make sure you’re using savings apps and sites like the ones below to their full advantage.

> Rakuten

With this website you get cash back when you go shopping. If you’re planning to purchase items on Amazon – or even from Target – then your first step should be to sign up for Rakuten.  

Simply create your profile, and then each time you plan to make an online purchase from one of your favorite stores, just log into Rakuten and type in your favorite retailer’s name. It’s that easy. You can even get an extension for your browser’s search bar, which can serve to remind you when to shop.

> ShopSavvy

Consider it your own army of elves, all working right on your phone. Using ShopSavvy, you just need to scan the barcode of whatever item you’re planning to purchase. Then the app will compare that item’s price with its price at other stores and help you find cash-back retailers. It even allows you to watch for price drops on that specific gift.

> Santa’s Bag

With this list-management app, you can create shopping lists and specific budgets for each person on your list, check off presents as you buy them, and then keep a watchful eye on just how much you’re spending.

Santa’s Bag will also keep track of the gifts you buy year after year. This way, you can save yourself from the embarrassment of buying that co-worker the same scented candle two holidays in a row.

> SnipSnap

The SnipSnap app lets you snap a picture of printed coupons and bookmark digital coupons from your favorite retailers and sort them by their expiration date. When you get to the checkout counter, simply pull up the offer on the app and show it to the cashier who scans it and inputs a code displayed under the coupon.

The app also has a “near me” function, which displays any nearby offers. Since it tracks your location, you can receive a push notification when you are close to an offer that you saved. That way, you don’t have to constantly check the app and risk forgetting when you intended to use a coupon.

Making it through the holidays without breaking the bank will set you up well to stick to your financial resolutions in the coming year. 

Your turn: Tell us your tips on enjoying the holiday season without the financial stress.