1. Join a Rewards Program
Many online and brick-and-mortar stores have loyalty or rewards programs that offer exclusive discounts to members. They’re usually free to join, and you rack up points with every purchase to earn free items or higher discounts. Ask about if your favorite store (or your loved ones’ favorite stores) have such a reward program at the checkout counter or look for the signup form on the store’s website.
2. Shop Through Cash-back Sites
A fairly new trend, cash-back sites reimburse shoppers after they make their purchases. These sites work partner with retailers – from department stores to designer brands – that give the cash-back sites a kickback for promoting their sales. The cash-back sites, in turn, pass part of that refund on to consumers. Two of the most popular of these sites are Rakuten and Ibotta.
How it generally works is that you register your email address with the cash-back site or download an app to get started. Then you shop through that site or app, which serves as a pass-through to the retailer, so you perform your actual transaction on the retailer’s site. However, the cash-back site calculates your rebate as a percentage of your total purchase and, depending on the app or site, mails you a check, provides a gift card, or sends you money directly via PayPal.
Some sites are more immediate with the rebate than others, so keep that in mind as you’re planning your budget and your purchases this holiday season. You might have to wait a few months to see your savings.
3. Use Coupon Codes
For an immediate discount, apply coupon codes to your online purchases or take the old-fashioned route and clip coupons for in-store purchases. Most stores also accept email coupons, as well. Just read the fine print on those before you try to use them at the cash register.
You can find coupon codes for items on your gift list by doing a quick online search. Once you have discovered a code, take a minute to check its validity. It might have expired or only apply to certain purchases. If the code is good, you’ll need to copy it and paste it into the appropriate field on the website during the checkout process. Sometimes the field is called Promo Code, Discount Code, or another similar name.
You should see your total cost change as soon as you hit the “apply” button, saving you money instantly that you can put toward another gift.
4. Buy Gently Used Items
Does someone on your list have high-end taste? Or do you have a lot of kids in your family? Consider shopping at local consignment stores, checking resale sites and apps like Poshmark (focused on fashion) and Mercari (with everything from electronics and home goods to name-brand accessories), and joining Facebook groups that resell what you need. Toys, children’s clothes, and designer handbags are just a few items you can snap up for a bargain. Just check the condition carefully and, in the case of toys, do your homework on possible recalls before you buy.
5. Bundle to Save on Shipping
Many online stores’ sites these days have free shipping for standard delivery on every purchase, but others require you reach a certain spending level before the shipping fee is waived. If you think you’ll have multiple gifts to buy from the same site, order them at the same time to ensure you meet the minimum total. Alternatively, if you’re just under the threshold and have no other needs from the site, see if there are small stocking stuffers you can add to your cart that will push you over the edge. You could also ask if a neighbor or friend wants something from the same site and place the order together to save on shipping.
Another option that’s available at national merchants, like department stores and electronics retailers, is in-store pickup. You can order the items you want online and arrange to have the items sent to your local store. This service doesn’t charge a shipping fee in most cases.
6. Subscribe to Email Lists or a Free Trial Membership
When you first visit a retail website, you might notice a popup asking for your email address in exchange for a one-time discount, often 10 or 15 percent off your first order and sometimes free shipping is included, too. Even if you personally have no interest in the store’s products – say you’re buying the latest video game for your teen nephew – sign up with your email address, preferably one you rarely use. You can always unsubscribe from the site’s emails after you’ve retrieved your discount code.
Similarly, if a site you’re shopping on has special perks for people who buy annual memberships (think free expedited shipping on everything as an example), you might want to see if there’s a free trial membership for a short period of time. If there is, do all the shopping you plan to do on that site during your trial window. Mark your calendar to ensure you unsubscribe before the site charges you automatically for a yearlong membership.
7. Comparison Shop and Price Match
Don’t be afraid to hunt for the lowest price on an item, especially electronics. You may discover the exact same products for much less at one retailer versus another. You can decide to purchase from the retailer whose price is the lowest. But if you favor the competitor whose price is higher, ask if they have a price-match guarantee. Many big-box stores have some type of policy where they meet or even better another retailer’s price on an item. Restrictions and requirements usually apply, so pay attention to what you need to present at the store to get your discounted price at your preferred retailer.
With these money-saving techniques, you can stretch your gift-giving dollars this holiday season.