If you’re like the average American, you’re going to drop a nice chunk of change this holiday season while shopping for gifts, decorations, and other holiday-related items.
In fact, the National Retail Federation says the average person celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa and/or Hanukkah will spend $804.42 in 2014, up almost 5% from 2013 spending levels.
That number may be high for you – or it may be pretty low if you plan to go all out this holiday season.
Regardless of whether you’re on a super-tight budget, or you’ve had a banner year and you feel flush with cash, it’s a good idea to manage your money wisely, even as you make merry during year-end holiday festivities.
In the spirit of smart shopping, try using the following five ways to save money while holiday shopping.
Say “No” To That Extended Warranty Offer at the Checkout Counter
Many people make major (translation: expensive) purchases around the holidays – things like personal electronics, home appliances, audio/visual equipment, and video game consoles. But you know what happens once you get to the checkout line – or even before then, right? A clerk or salesperson tries to get you to buy an extended warranty.
In many cases, you’re better off just saying no to that warranty offer, which can easily add $50 to $100 or more to your sales price. Fortunately, however, you don’t have to worry that you may have missed your opportunity to protect your merchandise if you decline the warranty while you’re in store.
A new service called Upsie lets you get a low-cost, but still high-quality warranty for up to 60 days after your initial purchase of things like new flat-screen TVs, laptop computers or smart phones.
Upsie is a free mobile application available for iOS and Android devices in the iTunes and Google Play stores. The Upsie app offers savings of 50% to 90% off traditional warranty pricing by letting consumers purchase warranties directly from insurance carriers, removing the retail middleman markup for warranty protection.
Bake up a holiday storm – instead of buying things
Rather than turning over a wad of cash to different merchants hawking expensive items in the mall, try giving homemade gifts – ones that you’ve baked, suggests Donna Skeels Cygan, owner of Sage Future Financial, LLC, and the author of The Joy of Financial Security.
Cakes and cookies are thoughtful choices that will be especially appreciated by your foodie friends, as well as relatives with a sweet tooth. “After baking, the cookies can be packaged with holiday ribbons, providing the added benefit that everyone goes home with several types of cookies to enjoy or give as gifts,” Cygan says.
Take advantage of free shipping
Free shipping offers are practically everywhere this holiday season, but merchants often require minimum orders of $50, $75 and even over $100 before you get free delivery, notes Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized shopping expert for Kinoli Inc. “If you have to spend more to qualify for free shipping then it’s not free,” says Woroch.
Avoid adding more items to your online cart by holding off until the retailer promises free shipping on all orders, she recommends. To get truly free shipping, take advantage of such promotions on Dec. 18, this year’s Free Shipping Day, when hundreds of retailers waive minimum order requirements, offer extra discounts and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve, Woroch adds.
Bust out those gift cards
One of the best money-saving presents you can buy a loved one – especially teenagers and students – is a gift card. A national brand gift card, such as one with a Visa or MasterCard logo, can be used anywhere and lets the recipient buy exactly what he or she wants. Best of all, you can purchase gift cards for less than face value. CardHub.com offers Gift Card Marketplace where shoppers can browse more than 7,000 discounted and full-price gift cards from retailers, individuals, and sites like eBay all in one convenient location. The deals range from 10% to as much as 70% off the value of the gift card.
Pare down your gift list
Is your gift list as long as Rapunzel’s hair? Instead of clearing out your bank account or racking up excessive debt buying gifts for practically everyone you know, draw names for extended family members. Instead of buying eight gifts for eight aunts, uncles, and cousins, this system allows you to buy only one gift for the person whose name you drew, saving you time and money, says Cygan. “Of course, you can continue to buy gifts for your children and parents,” she adds.