How to Get a Jump on Holiday Shopping and Save Money

Erica Agran
October 30, 2013



Not to be like the stores rushing the holidays with season’s greetings cards before Halloween, but it is a great time to get started with planning for your holiday shopping. With the luxury of time, you will have the ability to plan, budget and, most importantly, save money!

First things first: Set your overall holiday spending budget. Then, make a list of all of the people you are planning to buy for and do a breakdown of estimated spend for each recipient. That is a step that many people skip. Without it, you can be dealing with a major overspend. Use to get an organized overview of your bills and balances so you know how much you should be spending.

Next, consider asking your family members or close friends to make Amazon wish lists or even soKind registries so you can see what they really want. That could be said to take a bit of the fun out of receiving gifts, but overall satisfaction with your purchases is likely to be way higher. After years of asking, we finally got our families to do this and it sure was nice not to have to make so many returns!

Next, sign up for online newsletters from the companies that make or sell the products you are looking for. Overwhelmed? Try Azigo or Mailbox to help you manage your inbox. Once you know the key items that you are looking for, you can set alerts on items that you are looking for on sites like Track and Poach It.

Something that I did not realize is that experts recommend waiting until mid-November to start shopping. Retail analysts indicate that prices are highest in October and April (after tax refunds). One other thing to keep in mind is the store return policy. You want to make sure that the recipient can still return the gift for full credit after the holidays.

Now that you know what you are looking for, here are some tips for getting the best deals:

  • Watch for special sales and coupon codes. When you buy google for additional sale codes or use Poach It to see if any are available.
  • Check for specials from your credit card companies. For instance, American Express has 20 percent off on gifts purchased with Membership Rewards points. Most cards do offer deals if you buy with their cards or through the credit card’s retail site.
  • Check Find & Save for the best local deals in stores near you. It is a site that compiles all of the sales circulars so you can quickly search for the items you are looking for.
  • In a store, ask the salesperson if there’s a “friends and family” sale, a special (or a sale starting soon) or maybe a discount is offered to anyone who provides an email address.
  • In stores, consider asking for a price match — pull up a better price on your smart phone. Many stores can offer deals or better prices if you ask!
  • Use credit cards that have guaranteed price protection. Fewer cards offer this benefit that in the past. One card that does offer it is the Citi Simplicity Card with Citi ®  Price Rewind. Rewind searches hundreds of retailers’ sites for 30 calendar days from the date of purchase to help find a lower price. If one is found that’s lower by at least $25, you can get the price difference back.

If you are going to check out Black Friday or my preferred Cyber Monday — check out or for best deals. Another tip: Sign up for emails from Free Shipping Day. They offer last-minute free shipping codes for Christmas on “Free Shipping Day,” which is Dec. 18. In the meantime, they send free shipping and other offer codes weekly.

And one last bit of advice, give a gift receipt! Otherwise, if the recipient does return the gift, she may get considerably less back than you paid.

Erica Agran is a health IT professional by day and blogger and deal finder by night. Erica started Erica Finds after years of connecting friends to deals, new websites, new people and new ideas. Her blog helps readers to find things that they don’t have time to find on their own. This includes deals, health and fitness tips, travel information, running tips and much more. 

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