How You Do: Holiday Shopping on the Cheap

The economic crisis has not stretched my wallet to the breaking point just yet, but our intelligent President-elect does say that it’s going to get worse before it gets better, so I’m not about to dole out any more than I have to on holiday gifts this year.We all know the traditional ways of saving money on gifts (knitting scarves for everyone on your list, offering homemade coupons or baked goods in lieu of actual presents, etc.). But what if you do want to get actual gifts for people without going bankrupt? Try these hot tips to save some moola while doing your shopping.

Tip 1: Search/Clip Coupons

I ordered my dad $30 worth of merchandise from Land’s End the other day and almost had a heart attack when I saw that the shipping was $8. Let’s get real here—it does not cost $8 to send two turtlenecks via 7-day delivery. In my incensed state of rage, I went to Google and typed in “land’s end coupons”—and lo and behold, a page with a free shipping code on it popped up.

Deals like that are only a few clicks away, so make sure to search every time you buy something online. If you prefer to do your shopping in the flesh, cough up a few quarters for the Sunday paper and comb all the ads. You can clip coupons from there and learn about the hot sales going on near you. It takes extra time, but you’ll make up for it in extra money.

Tip 2: Buy Used

It’s not always the best idea to give a gift that someone has already broken in (like undies), so use your discretion here. But for certain items and certain people, it’s a great bet. If you have a friend who has been dying to read a specific book, she probably won’t care if you picked it up at the used bookstore for $5 rather than paying the $25 price tag for the brand-new copy at Barnes & Noble.

This tip can also be used toward stylish purchases. If you know somebody who loves to dress uniquely, spend an afternoon hitting all the thrift stores in town and get them a few choice items that you know they’d love. An even better idea is to take them along with you and offer to buy them a full outfit of their choice—that way, you can be sure they like what they’re getting.

Tip 3: Think Practical

Yes, we all love unwrapping luxurious items when the holidays roll around. But wouldn’t it be nice to get something you actually need for a change? Sure, your automatic thought for a Mom Gift might be that nice cashmere-blend sweater you spied a few weeks ago, but before you part with too much of your hard-earned cash, stop and think. What could Mom really use? Maybe she’s always holding her place in books with old receipts and folded napkins, and you think she could make good use of a bookmark. Or maybe she’s always complaining about how food sticks to the bottom of her frying pan.

It doesn’t always make for an exciting gift, but thinking practically can help someone out far more in the long run than thinking luxuriously—and it’s probably also cheaper than springing for the cashmere-blend sweater.

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