Worried about inflation and how it will impact your holiday shopping this year? You’re not alone. Among the Survey Junkie community, 48% of shoppers are very concerned or extremely concerned about inflation and what it means for their holiday budget.
The concern is valid, too. Per the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the September inflation report showed prices rising 8.2% in the last year. That means you’ll either need to raise more cash this year or seek out extra savings to stretch your budget.
Whether you’re saving for holiday travel, looking to cover a Secret Santa gift exchange, or coveting new holiday decorations, here’s how to score holiday season savings so that you can make the most of the season without draining your bank account.
1. Set a budget
Don’t underestimate the power of a budget. Understanding and documenting what you can afford to spend on is one of the best ways to save money during the holidays. Without a budget for holiday shopping, you don’t know definitively when you’ve overspent. But you will see the consequences later in lingering credit card debt.
Start with a review of your larger household budget, plus your bank and credit accounts. If you normally make more than you spend, you can direct part of your extra income into your holiday budget. Otherwise, you’ll rely on cash savings and, possibly, credit cards. If you do resort to credit cards, decide now how much debt you’re willing to take on.
You can also look at what you spent last year to inform this year’s gift giving budget. For example, if you’re still paying off your 2021 gift-buying costs, it’s smart to spend less in 2022. Or, if you got a big raise last month, that might warrant a small budget increase this year.
More than half (53%) of Survey Junkie members plan to pay cash on holiday purchases, while 41% will use credit cards. And, almost half (46%) of these shoppers say they’ll spend less in 2022 vs. last year.
2. Make your shopping list
Once you’re armed with a total budget, you’re ready to prepare a holiday gift list.
Start with the names of your giftees. To allocate funds to each person, group them into two or three buckets first. Each bucket represents a spending limit. For example, you may want to spend more on your direct family members, and less on coworkers. Your spouse and kids will be in the top bucket, while your coworkers will be in the lowest bucket. You might also have a middle-tier group that includes, say, your siblings and parents.
From there, you can assign estimated spending ranges for each bucket. Also write down any gift ideas you already have in mind. That way, you can validate your spending ranges by price-checking those items.
Your spending limits will be guidelines more than hard-and-fast rules. If you find the perfect gift for your mom for 50% less than expected, great. That will provide a nice cushion in case you need to overspend slightly for someone else.
3. Buy discounted gift cards
Sales aren’t the only way you can save money for the holidays. You can also buy gift cards for less than face value at Raise.com. Other sites like GiftCards.com and GiftCardGranny.com reward you with cash back on your gift card purchases.
Buying discounted store gift cards can generate savings of 0.5% to 10%. At the lower end of the range, you’ll find popular department stores like Target and Amazon. More specialized retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond are at the higher end.
Plan on using the gift cards to purchase gifts — rather than gifting the cards themselves. Discounted gift cards often come in odd denominations, such as $17.49. If you give away the card as is, your giftee might think you spent a little on yourself first. Fortunately, these denominations are often the perfect amount to cover a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift, wrapping paper, Christmas cards, or the perfect hostess gifts for holiday parties.
You can use discounted gift cards to save on household expenses, too. Say you find a gift card for your local supermarket. Use it to lower your weekly grocery bill and then allocate the savings to your holiday spending.
Survey Junkie offers gift cards to go-to holiday retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target, Sephora, and more. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales right around the corner, members can redeem their points for gift cards to deepen the discounts and shave off an additional $5, $10 or even $15.
As always, read the fine print before you buy. Some gift cards are only usable in store or online, but not both.
4. Be loyal
According to a Survey Junkie questionnaire, 81% of consumers are members of brand loyalty programs, yet only 30% plan to use their loyalty memberships to save money this holiday season.
The discrepancy may be due to the hassle of getting value out of loyalty programs. Admittedly, the restrictions can be, well, too restrictive. The richest loyalty programs often charge a membership fee or require you to use a specific credit card.
But you can get value from those programs, too. The trick is to plan ahead and choose just one or two at the most. Then, do all or most of your shopping for holiday gifts with those stores.
Take Amazon as an example. The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa pays 5% back on purchases from Amazon and Whole Foods Market. All other purchases earn 1% to 2%. You do need a paid Prime membership also, but you may already have that in place.
A 5% reward adds up to $50 in Amazon credits for every $1,000 you spend. Given the diversity of Amazon’s catalog, it’s possible to do all your shopping with this one retailer.
Even better, you can spend the Amazon credits you earn on more gifts or household essentials. That’s not the case with loyalty credit earned at a specialty retailer.
If you don’t shop Amazon or have a Prime membership, seek out a department store loyalty program. That way, you can consolidate your holiday spending with that store, which increases your earnings potential.
5. Use cashback apps
Cashback apps come in two main varieties, rebate apps and receipt apps.
Rebate apps give you cashback for clicking through the app to buy from major retailers. Rakuten and Capital One Shopping are two popular examples. They offer rebate percentages as high as 15%. These apps also share coupon codes and alert you when the product you’re shopping for is available for a lower price elsewhere.
Receipt apps like Fetch Rewards and Ibotta reward points when you upload your shopping receipts. You can then redeem those points for gift cards. The awards per receipt are small, but they add up over time. You can also increase your earnings potential by referring family and friends to the app.
6. Leverage big holiday sales
You probably already have Black Friday and Cyber Monday circled on your calendar. Some 70% of Survey Junkie members plan to shop Black Friday, while 52% intend to shop Cyber Monday. The two holidays are widely known for delivering the best deals of the season.
To save money during these big holiday sales and to find great deals for your holiday needs, lean on your gift list and always compare prices. Resist the urge to buy goods that aren’t on your shopping list, just because they are deeply discounted. If you don’t need the product, the discount is irrelevant.
Comparing prices helps you validate the deal. Too often, hyped discounts are less impressive when you compare them to other retailers’ offerings.
You also have sale options beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Veterans Day drives big discounts in the first half of November. Small Business Saturday is the ideal time to shop local, assuming you recover from Black Friday in time.
And if you’re a last-minute shopper, don’t miss Super Saturday and Free Shipping Day in December.
7. Consider a side hustle
Starting a side hustle can be another excellent way to fund your holiday shopping. There are many options and they range widely — in commitment level and skills required.
You could leverage your professional or creative skills by selling services on gig sites like Upwork and Fiverr. You could also sell handmade holiday cards and gifts on Etsy or through your own social media channels.
You could also join the Survey Junkie community, where you’ll earn for taking surveys and sharing your online behaviors. Ease the stress of holiday expenses, and get ahead of the shopping and spending rush. You need no special skills, other than an honest opinion. Sharing your feedback can be incredibly rewarding, too. Your voice can influence big brands to make their products and services better — for you and other households around the world.
If you prefer a gig that’s more passive, you could rent out your driveway, basement, or spare bedroom on marketplace websites like Spacer, Neighbor, and Airbnb.
Top ways to save money during the holidays
Plan ahead and you can make it through this inflation-ridden holiday season without breaking your bank account. Set your budget, make your list — including that perfect gift for mom or dad.
Then strategize on your shopping. Lean into discounted gift cards, loyalty programs, and cashback apps. Those will magnify the savings you earn at the big holiday sales and ease the financial burden of the season. And finally, if you know you’re going to overspend, pick up a side hustle like Survey Junkie. The earnings will help you pay off those credit cards faster — ideally before this cycle starts over again next year.