It’s hard to have happy holidays when you’re stressed out, spending too much, hosting 15 parties & wondering how you’re going to survive a cross-country flight to your in-laws with your toddler. Take a deep breath; we’ve got you covered. Our holiday guide helps you create a well-rounded winter where you spend wisely, shop smart, host family & friends like a yuletide legend & travel like a seasoned pro.
Browse through our collection of holiday cooking, hosting, and decorating tips or search for specific answers from experts to help to help you enjoy more of what’s most important: Decking your halls, throwing parties, picking the perfect tree, and enjoying time with those you love.
Find the cheapest flights, learn how to travel with gifts, survive crowded airports, and even make long flights with kids in tow a little more fun with our comprehensive travel articles that make heading away from home during the holidays a whole lot easier.
1. Set a budget for gifts and break it down person-by-person.
If you don’t, you’re liable to spend much more than you wanted to. The heavy marketing and advertising that comes with the holiday season can make you an impulse buyer, which is exactly what stores and websites want. Another advantage to setting a limit? You narrow down the types of gifts you can get someone, making your choice easier.
2. Use apps to make shopping easier.
We can use different websites to learn about a retailer’s upcoming bargains, price comparison apps to make sure we’re getting the best deals, social media sites to get up-to-the-minute information, and even apps to help us find parking. Download apps that can make the process easier. These include a barcode scanner to help you compare prices and a QR-code reader for coupon codes. Some popular apps include ShopSavvy, Black Friday app, and Nifti.
3. Get the best deals in your inbox.
If you’re keen on a particular retailer, don’t just rely on the paper ads that are available to the general public, since stores reserve the best deals as an “inside scoop.” Be sure to sign up for their email list, which might provide you with advance notification of any sales, as well as money saving coupons.
4. Check your (email) list twice for potential scams.
One of the top scams this time of year is fake delivery notification emails, which try to trick you into thinking you have an undelivered package, so you’ll hand over your personal information. How to avoid? Instead of clicking on a link and entering your information into a website, pick up the phone and give the parcel carrier a call directly.
5. Do you have old gift cards lying around?
If you haven’t spent them in the past year, the chances are that they’ll just gather dust. Instead, save a few bucks by incorporating these into your shopping plan when considering where to look for gifts. (Especially mandatory giving situations, like holiday gift exchanges.)
6. Get the most out of your cash-back rewards card.
If you have a cash-back rewards card with rotating categories, make sure you know which categories will get you bonuses on your holiday purchases. For example, the Chase Freedom card offers 5% cash back on purchases made at department stores and wholesale clubs from October 1 to December 31.
7. The holidays are an excellent time to buy tools and grills.
Lowe’s and Home Depot tend to have one or two super-useful tools, tool kits and grills whose price drops way below what you’d normally pay. For example, last year Lowe’s sold the Charbroil Advantage grill for $99 on Black Friday and the days following. The grill is usually $199 and dropped to $149, at most, over the course of the year.
8. Know what to buy on Black Friday.
Did you know that not all Black Friday buys offer savings that are worth standing in line? For instance, savings on toys, bedding, and winter clothing are a bust. However, shop for home appliances, travel deals, gaming systems and electronics and save big.
9. Know what to buy on Cyber Monday.
If you’re looking to snag deals on clothing, save yourself the sore feet and go shopping on Cyber Monday instead. But, don’t forget to research coupon codes ahead of time! Once fully armed with deals from favorite retailers, Cyber Monday shoppers can save an average of 30–40% off of apparel.
10. Bargains don’t always mean better values.
With all our shopping this time of year, it’s a good idea to scrimp and save where possible. When it comes to electronics, clothing, food and drink, liquor, and fragrances, however, it’s generally worth the extra expense to purchase from name brand manufacturers. Otherwise, the few bucks you save could cost you big in the quality department.
11. Trade your Christmas ornaments.
Decorating on a budget? Host a Christmas decoration swap! If you’ve got Christmas decorations you just can’t stand to hang up yet another year or if you get crafty and can DIY in bulk, hosting a Christmas ornament swap is a fun way to trade what you don’t want for what you do.
12. Real vs. fake Christmas trees.
Worried about your environmental impact over the Holidays? Believe it or not, real Christmas trees generally have a lower impact than fake ones, which are often made from petrochemical byproducts and can sit in landfills for centuries after you’re done with them. Real trees also absorb about one ton of CO2 and contribute to the workforce, but will cost you more in the long run than a fake tree.
13. Save money on your Christmas tree.
Buying a used Christmas tree from Craigslist, Letgo or other classified sites/apps is an amazing way to save tons of money on your tree. You can find dozens of name brand Christmas trees for under $75 that would normally cost you between $150 and $200.
14. Make your tree last.
If you want your real tree to last as long as possible, you best bet is to do the following: 1) purchase from a farm (or, ideally, cut your own), 2) cut an inch off the bottom for better water absorption before putting it into the stand, 3) avoid placing it near a heat source (vents, radiators, etc.), and 4) add a DIY preservation solution that costs next to nothing.
15. Know the best time to buy airfare.
Shopping for the best deals on holiday airfare? You can browse beforehand, but don’t hit “buy” until Tuesday around 3 pm – that’s the precise day and time of every week when airfares are at their lowest prices.