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10 Last-Minute Holiday Shopping Tips

Dec. 16, 2015
Personal Finance
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By Shanda Sullivan, CFP

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Nearly 57% of holiday shoppers started their shopping in early November, according to the National Retail Federation’s Consumer Holiday Spending survey. These folks are often referred to as “Type A” shoppers. Can’t relate? That’s OK, there’s still time to buy your gifts. Even better, you can still save money! Follow these tips to wrap up your shopping:

1. Buy a gift card (on sale). Imagine going to the bank and exchanging $85 for a $100 bill. You do something similar when you purchase a discount gift card. It’s a win-win situation: Gift cards are the most requested gift item each year, and you can buy them for only a fraction of the face-value price. Or you can purchase specific gifts with a discounted card.

To buy discounted gift cards, check out online vendors such as and or wholesalers such as Sam’s Club and Costco.

2. Search online for promo codes. Promotional or “promo” codes  — also called coupon codes — can help you save while shopping online. I love sites such as and, but you can also find deals by googling the name of your favorite store and “promo codes.” And check out NerdWallet’s DealFinder tool for discounts all year long.

3. Use social media. Some retailers offer exclusive savings to people who follow them on Twitter or “like” them on Facebook. Find out if you can save by following some of your favorite retailers. (You can always un-follow them later.)

4. Turn credit card points into gifts. Watching your credit card points build up may be fun, but if you’re like many folks, you’re not sure what to do with them. Consider using those points to order gift cards to give as gifts or to fund your holiday shopping trips.

5. Pay attention to register coupons. Those “extra” pieces of paper that print off with your receipt often contain valuable coupons that you can use during a future shopping trip. I saved 20% off my entire purchase at a major retailer using a coupon I received during my Black Friday shopping. Keep an eye out for these coupons before you ditch your receipt.

6. Stay organized with a list. When presents are wrapped or stowed away, you might forget what you’ve already bought. To avoid overbuying, create a list of the gifts you’d like to purchase and the ones you’ve already bought.

7. Know before you go. Don’t wander around the mall looking for that perfect gift. Brainstorm before you go shopping, then head straight for those particular items once you’re in the store. This should reduce or eliminate impulse purchases, saving you money.

8. Think outside the box. If your home is like mine, it’s full of toys your kids never play with. Rather than stocking up on more toys this year, buy your kids a movie pass or amusement park ticket. This will give them something exciting to look forward to, and you can use your Christmas budget to fund an activity that your family might have done in the future anyway.

9. Set a budget. Choose a specific amount of money you’ll spend on each gift recipient before you go shopping. Then stick to it!

10. Make it about others. When shopping for gifts, it can be tempting to throw in a few items for yourself. To avoid this — and save money — make a separate list of items that catch your eye. Revisit this list in January and decide whether you still want anything on it. If the answer is yes, odds are you’ll find those items for less during retailers’ after-season sales.

May you have a wondrous and joyful holiday season, and may these tips help you save money while you shop.

Image via iStock.