Christmas on a Budget

9 Early Christmas Shopping Tips to Save Money

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We’re just ten short weeks until Christmas, and while I know we haven’t even experienced our sugar coma from the kids’ Halloween stash yet, the extreme budgeters are already planning early Christmas shopping.

I remember my Mom putting gifts on layaway every year because it was the only way she could force herself to save for gifts. She was terrible with money, and even though this blog talks all about personal finance, and I was a banker early on in my financial career, I still inherited some of her traits: impulse buying and emotional spending, for example.

I am, however, great at creating budgets, and you can be, too, with a few tips and a lot of discipline.

If you’re looking for ways to make extra money this holiday season, check out these 87 legit side hustle options.

Ways to Save on Early Christmas Shopping Gifts

How Much to Spend on Christmas Gifts Per Person

First, let’s talk about the Christmas budget. How much should you spend on gifts per person? Making the decision of whether to keep all things equal is a conundrum for sure. You might have a few kids different ages, and if you’re like me, you know that $100 goes a lot further with a 3-year-old than a 14-year-old.

You can create a simple monthly budget template here if spreadsheets and software are your jam!

You have $500 to work with, and you want to buy your spouse a $100 gift.

You have $400 remaining, and most people would think you’d just divide that $400 between the three kids. Now, I don’t know how many of you have a 13 year old, but how far do you think you can get with $133 ($400/3)? You can’t even buy many clothes with $133.

Here’s how we do our Christmas budget. You can adjust the numbers based on your own family.

Step 1:

Add the total of your kids’ ages.  13+8+5=26

Step 2:

Take your total budget for your own kids from above, $400 and divide that number by 26.


Step 3:

Now take that number, $15.38 and multiply by the age of each child.




This is your budget for each child, based on their age. We tried setting equal budgets for each child but found that our younger kids were able to get many gifts far and above what they needed, and my oldest only had a couple of gifts to open.

This is a simple way to manage your Christmas budget without stressing over equal dollar amounts.

Earn Free Gift Cards for Shopping

It can be hard to maintain our money wisely during the Christmas season as the retailers try to lure you into blowing all of your hard-earned dough.

Make no mistake, it’s called Black Friday because it’s when retails are said to “be in the black” ie they are “making money.”

So keep it in mind that those retailers are planning on separating you from your cash, and they’re just “chumming the water” with “too good to be true” offers to cause a money spending feeding frenzy.

Luckily, to keep our shopping list from busting the budget we have been earning free gift cards all year so we can pick the coolest in-demand gifts guilt-free.

Gift cards are versatile and you can give them to almost anyone, especially if you don’t necessarily know the person very well or you don’t know who will receive it (think white elephant gifts).

Of course, you could pick one up at the regular price, but there are plenty of ways to get them cheaper, such as getting free Xbox gift cards. Why pay full price when you can get them for free?

Side note: If you’re looking for an Old Navy coupon to save money this holiday season, Swagbucks offers savings on several brands.

Shop at Outlet Malls to Save Money

Skip the malls. Go to outlet malls instead. Usually, the outlet malls will have their black Friday deals not only on black Friday but start on Thursday and go throughout the entire weekend and even into the week.

You don’t need to wait until Black Friday to save money on early holiday shopping either. Outlet malls are generally cheaper than visiting other retailer locations and much cheaper than a normal mall (which will also help you avoid pushy kiosk salesmen and exhausting consumer marketing).

Utilizing the 4 Gift Rule for Christmas

Ever since I discovered the 4 gift rule for Christmas, it has helped us save money and greatly simplified our shopping list. The 4 gift rule is a framework for buying Christmas gifts, one from each of the following categories: something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.

This idea has not only saved us money, but also allowed us to buy fewer, but more meaningful, gifts. And since I am terrible at gift ideas, using the want/need/wear/read framework has really helped me with gift ideas!

If you’re planning out your Christmas shopping early, save some money, time, and stress by following the 4 gift rule this year.

Create Handmade Gifts

Save money on your holiday season shopping by making gifts by hand for those on your list instead. If you’re a creative person, you can put your skills to the test and stick to your Christmas budget while doing it.

Because you’ll be putting your special touch on the gifts, it will be more memorable to the receiver. If you need ideas there are plenty of DIY Christmas gifts available on Etsy that may spark your imagination.

Just make sure you plan ahead because it will take more time to complete than if you were just clicking “order now” online!

I actually just bought this machine that will help me create t-shirts for the holidays, custom wine glasses and coffee mugs, and handcrafted cards. I can’t wait to use it to make gifts for my kids and other family members and friends.

If you do hit up the stores for crafting supplies, make sure to bring a Michaels coupon of a JoAnn coupon. These can also be used online if you prefer to stay in.

Sign up for a Christmas Savings Account

I’ll dig into the details below, but saving up before Christmas gives you a lot of opportunities to but gifts at cheaper prices.

Last year, my wife and I spent about $1,200 on Christmas presents. We hadn’t budget ahead for it because we had just bought a house and we were focused on making some small updates to our home.

The $1,200 hit our savings hard — we cash flowed some, but a lot of it came out of our emergency fund (don’t tell the other bloggers we did this!). Since I’m the “nerd” in our marriage, that stressed me out.

So we talked about how we could be more proactive with our savings this year! We decided to spread out our $1,200 Christmas budget over the full year and automate the savings. So, in 2019, we set up an automatic transfer with our bank.

Every paycheck (every 2 weeks), about $55 gets moved into a savings account that we designated for Christmas savings.

This was a game-changer! Now, talking about getting gifts for our family doesn’t feel stressful for me, I just enjoy it.

Plus, having the designated funds available throughout the year gives us guilt-free opportunities to buy gifts at discounts.

See a good Groupon, Cyber Monday, or Black Friday deal that’s perfect for your brother-in-law? Go ahead and buy it ahead of time, and it won’t break your weekly budget (or hurt your emergency fund).

It’s not an impulse buy when you’ve been saving for it! This approach may sound simple, but it’s completely changed my emotional experience with the gift-purchasing part of the holidays.

Honey, Stop the Car!

Shopping at yard sales and flea markets might sound like weird places to do early Christmas shopping, but you can often find brand new items for as much as 90% less than what you would pay for them at a store.

There are usually a lot of yard sales at the end of summer and the beginning of fall while the weather is still somewhat warm.

You can find yard sales by searching for them on apps like Yard Sale Treasure Map and Facebook Marketplace.

You can also just get out and look for yard sale signs in your area as people don’t always post their sales on the internet.

The pros and cons of shopping yard sales and flea markets are that you never know what you’re going to find.

If the person you’re shopping for likes unique/vintage items, I can’t think of a better place to look than yard sales and flea markets. As long as you’re okay with giving them a gift that isn’t brand new.

I once picked up a french provincial dresser at Goodwill for $59 and refinished it, and now it’s worth about $450. As I’ve said before, you can make amazing gifts for much less than buying new, and it’s personalized and custom for the recipient!

Goodwill Dresser Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Duck Egg Blue Refinished
Pro Tip: Use paper plates under the legs when painting furniture! Cheap and easy way to save your floor from the mess!

Materials Used for this Project:

[amazon table=”9433″]

I used Annie Sloan duck egg blue, but I have used Rustoleum chalked paint for other projects since it is more affordable.

Beware of Black Friday Deals Too Good to be True

We are not about eliminating all luxuries in our lives so it’s okay to treat yourself and others no and again, so long as you don’t go into debt for it.

Around this time of the year, we all start to get bombarded with the ‘Black Friday’ hype and the build-up to the supposed biggest sale of the year.

It makes perfect financial sense to buy your gifts during this sale period. However, before you buy anything, do a historic price check to make sure it is a real deal and not a made-up offer.

It might have been cheaper or just as cheap earlier in the year. Retailers use this tactic by raising prices towards the sale season only to reduce it during the sale period.

This gives the illusion that the product is on offer when it’s not. Try websites such as Camel Camel Camel.

Utilize Credit Cards Wisely and With Caution

It’s easy to get caught off-guard in life – especially when at the register about to buy a large number of gifts (that costs a lot of money).

But don’t let it happen to you! I’m talking about getting sold on a retail credit card… You know the line, “would you like to save 10% right now, on this purchase, but simply signing up for a credit card?”

Sure, it sounds enticing, but the truth is they’re usually not worth the short term ding to your credit score. You’re much better off using the best credit card available to you – not one that some retailer slinging.

Bottom Line

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. It truly is! I love planning for Christmas, but remember that while gifts are fun to give and receive, Jesus is the reason for the season.

Keep your holiday spending in check by following these tips to get a head start on early Christmas shopping so you don’t bust the budget.

And remember, family traditions last far longer than the excitement of unwrapping a package.

9 Ways to Save on Early Christmas Shopping

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