Five Easy Ways to Save Money on Christmas Gifts this Year

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way Toward Controlling Spending

It's no secret that during the holidays, people tend to overspend. This year alone, the average American plans to spend an $660 on gifts. That's why monitoring Christmas spending and sticking to a budget is something that everyone should make an effort to do this holiday season.

To do so, it's important to take the time to carefully plan and budget for Christmas gifts, so you don't end up overspending and putting things on a credit card. Case in point: According to recent data, 24 percent of millennial shoppers still haven't paid off their credit card debt from last Christmas. 

Don't let this happen to you. Here are our five best tips to avoid overspending during the holidays – and still get that something special for everyone on your list. 

01
Stick to a Christmas Gift Budget

Wrapped Christmas gift

 Emilija Manevska/Getty

One of the most important things that you can do to save money on Christmas gifts is to stick to a gift budget. You can incorporate this into your monthly budget and put money away for Christmas in the months leading up to Christmas. This also requires budgeting how much you will spend on each gift – and sticking to it. 

Budgeting may not seem like a lot of fun, especially around the holidays, but look at it as a creative challenge. Often, carefully thought out gifts (think: homemade gifts) are a lot more meaningful than the more expensive ones. These Christmas savings strategies can help you stick to your budget:

  • Consider expectations set by family members and social situations when making up your budget. You may want to advocate for lower spending limits if you have a large family.
  • Shop sales and start shopping early. If you can purchase items throughout the year, it can make the holiday gift-buying season less stressful
  • Setting aside each month for Christmas can also make budgeting easier. 

02
Plan Your Christmas Gift List in Advance

Woman using credit card and tablet

 JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty

Another important aspect of saving money this holiday season is to plan ahead when shopping for Christmas gifts. You can begin looking for Christmas gifts at any time during the year, but big holiday sales weekends like Labor Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday are great places to start. 

If you do shop early, be sure to keep a list of what you have gotten for whom and what you still need to buy. You don't want to end up buying three gifts for one person and none for another. You can also plan ahead through comparison shopping and online shopping, two other surefire ways to cut your spending. 

Check out these tips for comparison shopping or buying gifts in advance: 

  • Keeping a running list helps you watch for the best price on an item, and keep track of for whom you've already bought. 
  • Planning ahead can simplify the process and take away the worry of finding the perfect gift. 
  • A list allows you to ask others about where to find the best deals. 

03
Buy One or Two Extra Christmas Gifts

Friends enjoying holiday wine

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During the holiday season, it's common to attend last-minute parties or get-togethers, or even a holiday party at work. Many times, you'll need to bring a small gift to these parties – and these extra, unexpected Christmas gifts can throw off your​ Christmas budget.

You can prepare for this by purchasing one or two generic gifts that you can give in return when you receive an unexpected gift or have an unexpected party to attend. Gift cards are a great solution, but you could also consider having a nice bottle of wine or another type of hostess gift on hand. 

Worth noting: You also may want to choose a few different types of these generic gifts to be sure the gift will fit the recipient. 

Try these tips on stocking up on last-minute gifts: 

  • Try to buy something that you would enjoy having just in case you do not use it.
  • You can also return unused gifts if needed, but remember, it is better to have something on hand rather than trying to buy something at the last minute.

04
Encourage Christmas Gift Exchanges

Two people holding a gift box

Nikole Mock/EyeEm/Getty 

Another easy way to save on Christmas gifts is to do a Secret Santa gift or to draw names. That way, you will only have to shop for one person. This really can help save money on gifts, plus it allows people to purchase a nicer gift for one person, rather than several less meaningful gifts.

This could be applied to office giving as well as extended family giving. Large families may do it among siblings, as well. Here's why you should consider a Secret Santa gift exchange this year: 

  • Often people end up with a nicer gift that is useful, and everyone ends up spending less than they would if you bought for everyone.
  • The Secret Santa gift is easy to set up and many people jump at the chance to simplify their shopping expectations. 

05
Give a Christmas Gift to Someone in Need

Box of donations and toys

Steve Debenport/Getty 

Take time this holiday season to give to someone who truly needs it. This gift may be the one that makes the biggest difference in your shopping experience.

There are several charities to choose from that helps those in need during the holidays. You can purchase this gift while you are out shopping and drop it off right away, or you may decide to organize a toy drive for a specific organization or family yourself.

You might also consider giving gifts to those in need rather than exchanging gifts with family and friends. Consider the following for buying for those in need this Christmas:

  • Taking time to help someone else can make a big difference and help get you into the holiday spirit. 
  • Giving to those in need is an alternate option to buying for everyone in your family, which could also save you money while doing some good at the same time.  

Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero