Holiday Hacks Compiled by Andrea Cruz

Holiday Hacks
Compiled By Andrea Cruz

Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar shopper, an online shopper, or a mix of both, the holidays can be a stressful time. Saving money is typically an elusive goal that many fall short of as last minute purchases happen and budgets are forgotten in the mad rush to get the perfect gifts. These holiday hacks just might save you the stress of suffering from a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out).

Making handmade gifts is how some save money, but if you’re not a Crafty McCrafterson or don’t have time and would rather purchase your gifts, consider implementing a few of these quick holiday hacks. In no particular order: Draw names, plan ahead, make gift lists, budget, stick to the budget, shop alone, re-gift.

So, now that the basics are out of the way, let’s start with online shopping. Gas money saved is your first win. And since time is money, not spending hours elbow-to-elbow with other shoppers is your second win.

Black Friday sales have migrated online in the last few years, and Cyber Monday is now as big as, if not bigger, than Black Friday. And what’s nice is that both Black Friday and Cyber Monday online sales aren’t just limited to the immediate Friday and Monday following Thanksgiving. They often start much earlier – like a week or two.

Yes, the come-hither call of online shopping can skew the sanctity of the holiday, but it’s still nice that the windows of shopping opportunities have widened and you don’t necessarily have to leave the dinner table early to go pitch the tent outside of Best Buy.

The chances of using a credit card for online purchases are pretty good (unless you’re using a money sending service like Paypal). So, get the best bang for your plastic buck. Many credit cards have rewards in place, such as a point system per dollar spent, which can be used later toward gift card purchases or cash back, or even air miles if the issuer is an airline. Research your issuer’s rewards and find out which one will work best for your purposes.

Skip the post office and have your purchases mailed directly to the recipient. It’s not for everyone, but it’s an option. Some sites will even gift wrap the purchase before they send it. Plus, you’ll save shipping charges for having it first sent to you, and then on to the recipient.

Take advantage of any free shipping offers (by the way there’s a rumor that December 18 is ‘online free shipping day’ for many retailers). And always at least try to use online coupon before pushing ‘go’ on a purchase. Open a new browser window and do a quick search for a promo code for the particular website. If needed, create an account as a customer ahead of time so you’ll receive emails with discounts and sale offers.

Pin it. There’s apparently a feature on Pinterest that helps save money. Pin your favorite items from certain online retailers and Pinterest will let you know if the price drops. It’s not super clear exactly how this works or what the retailers are, but is definitely was worth mentioning.

Have lots of patience? Take the time to track price changes using several websites, including CamelCamelCamel, The Tracktor, SlickDeals, and the list goes on. Typically, they list past prices of the wanted item so it can be determined if now is a good time to make a purchase, or if you should wait for a price drop.

There’s an app for this. Save money by using your smartphone with price checker apps, several of which can be found in the specific phone’s app store. If you’re in a store with the product in hand, scan the barcode of an item to compare prices online.

Apps like Shopkick will reward you simply for visiting specific retailers, and scanning certain products — and of course for purchases. The “kick” points can be redeemed for retail and restaurant gift cards. Go grocery shopping with the Ibotta app and get cash back for your food purchases. Nice.

Along those same lines, sites like refund a small percentage when you shop the retailers that are linked from their sites. Why would they do that? They’re making a commission on your purchase, so they pass a small percentage on to you as an incentive to shop through their site. It’s a win-win.

Buy in bulk. Find a one-gift-fits-most and go with it. This saves time and you might be able to get a BOGO, which will definitely lessen your feelings of FOMO.

Along with the rumor about free shipping day being December 18, there’s another rumor that the deepest discounts online happen on December 1, and again from December 11 to 18. Fingers crossed that it’s not just a rumor…

It’s okay to give gift cards (remember it saves time). And we like the idea of giving gift cards purchased for less than the face value, even if it’s just a few dollars less. Many restaurants will gift the buyer a gift card with a minimum purchase in gift cards. For example, buy $100 of gift cards, get a $20 gift card. is a great way to buy unwanted gift cards at less than face value. (Incidentally, it’s a great way to sell your unwanted gift cards, too.)

Ideas for holiday gift giving next year? Buy and stash gifts purchased throughout the year. Your bank account won’t be punched in the gut. Open a holiday savings account at your bank and designate a small monthly transfer from checking to savings. Funds are accessible near the holidays.

Post-holiday sales. We love them even though we’re usually not wanting to even bother with shopping, post-holidays. Power through the I-don’t-want-to-shop-anymore blues and stash gifts for next year.

And to totally nix giving material items and save cash, give the gift of time or service. Offer babysitting, tutoring, a ride to the airport, yard work, etc. Happy gifting!