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Holiday Finances: Money-Saving Tricks When Christmas Shopping on a Budget

explaining frequently asked questions about PTO

Whether it’s currently January, April, or August, Christmas will be here before you know it.

And along with Christmas often comes spending way more than you’d planned.

But this year is different! We’re here to help you get your holiday spending under control and ditch the post-holiday spending guilt and financial stress.

Check out our 12 smart, money-saving tips and tricks on how to shop for Christmas gifts on a budget that will help you stick to your budget and have the merriest Christmas yet.

Table of Contents

  • How To Christmas Shop on a Budget — 12 Tips To Help You Stretch Your Dollar

  • A PTO Advance From Sorbet Can Help Solve Your Holiday Shopping Woes

How To Christmas Shop on a Budget – 12 Tips To Help You Stretch Your Dollar

#1: Set a Realistic Budget and Stick To It

We've all done it.

You're at a store when you suddenly see the perfect gift for someone on your list — that one gift that will undoubtedly make their Christmas the best one ever. Sure, it costs a little more than you expected to spend, but you figure the finances will all balance out in the end. But they never do.

This is the perfect example of why you shouldn’t even think about jumping into Christmas shopping without a clearly defined budget — it’s just too easy to wind up overspending.

Head into the Christmas season with a doable budget.

Here’s a spending plan you might want to try:

  1. Take an honest look at your income and expenses.

  2. Take inventory of your overall projected holiday output, including gas or plane tickets, decorations, food, and gifts.

  3. Determine your spending capacity for Christmas gifts.

  4. Prioritize the people you want to buy gifts for and how much you plan to spend for each person.

  5. Stick with your plan.

When you take the time to get your holiday spending budget lined out, you’re less likely to make impulse buys, and your financial health will thank you.

#2: Make a Gift List and Avoid Impulse Buying

Everyone knows that tackling grocery shopping without a list is dangerous to your budget and your bank account. So is shopping for Christmas gifts without a well-outlined plan.

Taking just a few extra minutes to put together a holiday shopping list can help you:

  • Make sure you’ve got everyone covered.

  • Know exactly what you need and where to go in each store.

  • Stick with your predetermined holiday budget plan.

#3: Save Ahead of Time

Another great strategy for Christmas shopping on a budget is to start in January and feed money into your Christmas fund all year long. This can be as easy as having a separate savings account specifically earmarked for Christmas gifts.

Setting aside $50 a month out of your income for 8 to 12 months is generally much easier than trying to come up with $400-$600 or more in mid-December.

Even if you can't begin stashing away money at the first of the year, starting to save for Christmas gifts as soon as possible will help ensure you have all the funds you need ready and waiting to make those special holiday purchases.

#4: Advance Your PTO

It only sounds complicated.

Sorbet’s PTO Advance Solution is as easy as downing a slice of your grandma’s homemade pumpkin pie. Simply:

  1. Visit Sorbet, make a few clicks, and calculate the value of your unused PTO​.

  2. Apply in minutes. It’s easy and risk-free, with no credit check and no commitment.

  3. Get paid. Our PTO advance allows you to get your money on a prepaid Sorbet Visa card within just 1-5 business days.

  4. Christmas shop-till-you-drop (on a budget, of course)!

  5. Pay us back when you leave your company.

#5: Do Your Holiday Shopping Early

There are so many advantages to knocking your shopping out early.

Here are just a few of the benefits of avoiding the Christmas shopping time crunch:

  • You can spread the cost of your gifts out across several months. Planning ahead like this keeps your November and December budgets from taking a heavy hit from holiday gift purchases.

  • You can shop without feeling the last-minute pressure to buy a gift just so you’ll have ‘something’ to give.

  • You’re able to watch the sales and more easily stick to your predetermined Christmas shopping budget.

  • You get to beat the crowds and hustle and bustle that accompany Christmas shopping.

  • You can shop when you feel like it — and you don’t have to drag along your kids or less-than-enthusiastic spouse.

  • You’re able to stock up throughout the year as you find the gifts you’re looking for on sale.

  • You can spend the weeks leading up to Christmas relaxing and enjoying the special activities that go along with the season instead of having to hunt for gifts.

#6: Look for Free Shipping

One aspect of being a savvy shopper is taking advantage of holiday deals — including free shipping. Many online retailers offer this as a perk for purchases over a certain amount.

If you’re planning to spend smaller amounts at several stores, you’ll want to know about national Free Shipping Day.

This annual event occurs in mid-December each year and allows you to shop with participating retailers, both large and small, that offer free shipping — with guaranteed delivery by Christmas.

#7: Make the Most of Shopping Apps

If you're not already using shopping apps to save money, now is the perfect time to start. With just a little bit of pre-planning, shopping apps can save you cash and a lot of stress this Christmas.

Shopping apps allow you to browse deals and get personalized shopping offers.

They come in all sorts of flavors. Some money-saving apps even come with extra cool features such as:

  • Price matching to help you save money

  • Shopping lists to keep you organized; and

  • Fun perks like rewards and cash back

Here’s a list of some of the best money-saving shopping apps to help you create success when Christmas shopping on a budget:

  • Flipp – The Flipp app lets you browse the ads for over 2,000 retailers. You can then easily create a digital shopping list and load coupons to your loyalty cards for additional savings. It’s the perfect way to streamline the process of hunting for the best deals. Flipp is available on Android, iOS, and desktop.

  • Ibotta – Ibotta not only provides rebates on in-store purchases, but they also offer cash back for online shopping. You can select from thousands of offers that are available at over 2,000 stores, including grocery stores, specialty shops, travel providers, and more. Ibotta can be accessed on Android, iOS, and Chrome browser extensions.

  • Honey – Honey allows you to automatically search for coupon codes and will notify you if an item is cheaper on another site. If a product isn't priced as you’d like, you have the option to add it to a drop list, and Honey will send you a notification as soon as the price drops. Eligible purchases made through the Honey app earn points you can redeem for gift cards, cash, or PayPal shopping credits. Honey is available for Android, iOS, browser extension, and desktop.

#8: Use a Cash Back Card

As you’re putting together ideas for how to do your Christmas shopping on a budget, don’t forget about cash-back credit cards. Simply save your credit card cash back throughout the year, then redeem your cash-back points to help pay for your holiday gift purchases.

A few of the higher paying cash back options for credit cards include:

#9: Participate in Secret Santa

Another great way to get your Christmas shopping done on a budget is to focus on buying the perfect gift (or gifts) for just one person by taking part in Secret Santa.

Secret Santa allows you to choose the name of one person in a group and spend a pre-agreed-upon amount on gifts.

The Secret Santa tradition is especially perfect for those with a never-ending list of extended family members, friend groups, or offices with multiple coworkers.

#10: Consider DIY Gifts and Experiences

A Christmas gift doesn't have to be purchased. In fact, some of the best and most meaningful gifts are often handmade or experiential.

Purchased gifts may make a quick impression but often aren’t remembered long-term.

Homemade gifts, on the other hand, are not only potentially less expensive than store-bought but generate every bit as much gratitude and create meaningful memories. People appreciate the time, thought, and effort that goes into DIY gift-making.

Fun ideas for handmade gifts include:

  • A gift basket of kitchen utensils and spices for the young person who just moved into their first apartment

  • A bottle of handcrafted vanilla extract

  • Chocolate chip cookie mix in a jar

  • And more

Experiential gifts can take many forms and can be given for the recipient to experience with or without the giver.

A few options include:

  • A painting class

  • In-home organization

  • A meal

  • Tickets to a concert

#11: Take Advantage of Last-Minute Online Sales

Often online retailers will offer special discounts and promotions during the holiday season — and even more so as the count-down to Christmas begins.

Take a few minutes of your time each day to scroll through your emails or social media accounts to keep an eye out for last-minute bargains.

And if you’re doing your shopping in-store, don’t be afraid to ask if they’re having any sales or if there are online coupons you might be able to take advantage of.

Many stores have holiday deals or may be willing to give you a discount if you simply ask.

#12: Skip the Bags and Wrapping Paper

All the gift bags and wrapping paper end up in the trash anyway, and it takes so long to wrap gifts! This year, save yourself some time and money by wrapping Christmas gifts in:

  • Brown paper grocery bags tied with bright ribbons. You can even stamp or paint the paper with fun designs.

  • Hand-sewn fabric gift bags. Even if you only possess the most basic of sewing skills you can easily turn a square or rectangle of fabric and a piece of twine or ribbon into a reusable drawstring bag.

  • Newspaper comic strip pages.

A PTO Advance From Sorbet Can Help Solve Your Holiday Shopping Woes

Don’t dip into your paycheck or use a paycheck advance to fund your holiday shopping.

Let Sorbet make this Christmas a little brighter by helping you use the PTO you’ve earned but will never use.

Our free PTO Advance Solution was created to put you in control of your money by empowering you to decide how, when, and where you want to spend it.

Check out Sorbet today to find out more.

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