Save on holiday gifts without feeling like a Scrooge

Save on holiday gifts without feeling like a Scrooge
November 23, 2022 | Katie Levene

Holiday spending can easily get out of control, adding to the stress of the season. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can reduce holiday stress by creating a plan for your holiday expenses. Sticking to a budget is the more challenging part because no one wants to feel like they’re a stingy Scrooge, missing out on the fun.

Research explains our desire to spend well on others. A Harvard study found that giving money to someone else boosted the participants’ happiness more than if they kept it. Another study found that giving activates areas of the brain responsible for social connection, trust and pleasure.

In other words, we get joy out of giving and want to continue to do it despite trying to be thrifty. We’re here to share some "life hacks" to help you stick to your gift budget and feel good about the gifts you give. So, let’s take a look at a few ways you can be upwardly frugal on holiday gifts without feeling like you’re being stingy.

Ask for general gift ideas instead of an exact item

Bring creativity back to your holiday shopping by requesting non-specific gift ideas. Why? When a niece or nephew shares a link to the sweater they want, you have little wiggle room on price and deals.

Instead, ask for general gift ideas this year. It will allow you to have the space to shop around for something they’ll love. If you know they want a sweater, you can shop at several stores and for a variety of styles to maximize your budget.

Hunt for coupon codes and shop early

Don’t make an online purchase without checking for a coupon code first. Several web extensions will do this automatically for you but you’ll want to research the kind of information the extension collects and retains about you.

Alternatively, a simple search can help too. Before hitting checkout, go to the “deals” or “promos” section of the site to see what codes might apply to your cart. You can also try a Google search for coupons.

Another quick tip: Save on shipping by shopping early. The number of online orders goes up each year and although shipping companies plan for the added demand, your item could take a while to get to you. Stick with standard shipping to make your budget go farther.

Pay for gifts with rewards points or cash back

Have you been racking up your credit card cash back all year? Now’s the time to maximize your credit card cash back! It’s “free” cash that can boost your holiday budget significantly. It feels extra good to give generously without pulling out your own wallet.

Regift unused gift cards

Although the word “regift” gets a bad rap, unused gift cards could be the perfect gift for someone this season. We all have a pile of gift cards we’ve intended to use but haven’t. Regift those cards that you’re confident you haven’t used. The only disclaimer we’d like to add is to make sure it is something they’ll actually enjoy!

Gift a future experience

Let’s go back to the science of giving. Did you know that people are happier when they are given experiences rather than material gifts? A study at Cornell University found exactly that!

Use science to your advantage by gifting a fun outing on a future date. This method could allow you to shift your holiday spending to a time that might be easier for you. It can also give you an excuse to see your loved one more often. Just make sure you set a date and time right away!

Share your expertise

Has a friend commented on your wonderful garden? Are you known in your family as a master chef? Do you have a talent you want to pass on? Share your expertise!

Offer a couple with a newborn your cleaning services or a delicious meal. Teach your loved one how to garden this spring. Anyone can brainstorm some ways you can help someone with your unique gifts and talents.

An added touch: Share a small item when you give the gift like a spatula or gardening gloves. The only cost to you is the item and your time. The gift is a priceless memory or a new talent for your friend.

Draw names for gift giving

Coming up with gift ideas for many family members can be draining. This year suggest drawing names and focusing your efforts on one or two people instead of the entire group. You’ll be able to dedicate your time and budget to get your loved one the perfect gift.


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Katie Levene is a marketer fascinated with finance. Whether the topic is about the psychology of money, investment strategies or simply how to spend better, Katie enjoys diving in and sharing all the details with family, friends and Money Mentor readers. Money management needs to be simplified and Katie hopes she accomplishes that for our readers. The saying goes, "Knowledge is Power", and she hopes you feel empowered after reading Money Mentor.

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