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In 2019, the average American household spent $511 on holiday gifts. Whether you’ll spend more or less than that this year, you can make the most of your gift-giving dollars if you do a little planning before the seasonal cash register – er, sleigh – bells start ringing.

Make a List

The most famous holiday gift giver of all makes a list and checks it twice. So should you. Before you make a single purchase, write down specific items for everyone on your gift list (or at least set a dollar range for each person) and stick to it.

Having a shopping list that matches your holiday budget will help you avoid the New Year’s money hangover that comes from overspending on gifts.

Use Digital Shopping Tools to Save Money

Whether you’re shopping exclusively online, venturing out to a brick-and-mortar location or both, you can use technology to help you find the best deals.

  • Earn cash back when you shop online by starting at Rakuten, Ibotta or Mr. Rebates instead of going directly to the retailer’s site.
  • Try price-monitoring apps, like Earny, camelcamelcamel or the Droplist tool on Honey to get alerts of a price drop on an item. Even if you’ve just purchased it at the higher price, you can reach out to request a refund.
  • Download price-comparison apps, like ShopSavvy, that will show you the price of an item at other retailers when you scan its UPC barcode with your phone.
  • Sign up to get emails from your favorite retailers so you’ll be the first to see their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. (Bonus: Many retailers also offer a one-time discount just for subscribing.)
The most famous holiday gift giver of all makes a list and checks it twice. So should you. Before you make a single purchase, write down specific items for everyone on your gift list (or at least set a dollar range for each person) and stick to it.

Devise a Payment Strategy

You’ll never go wrong by setting aside cash as part of your plan for smart holiday shopping. It’s a foolproof way to ensure you don’t spend more than you’ve budgeted. But using credit cards can work in your favor, if you’re clever about it.

  • Some retailers offer interest-free financing for a few months when you make a minimum purchase on their store credit card. Explore bundling your purchases from that particular retailer to take advantage of extended payments.
  • You might have a store credit card that applies an automatic discount on every purchase you make – typically 5% off. Be sure to calculate those savings as you price shop. You may end up paying less for an item that rang up at a slightly higher price.
  • The Key Cashback® Credit Card offers up to 2% cash back on all purchases.
  • No matter which credit card you use, be sure you have enough money available to pay your account in full when you get your first statement of the new year. Financing charges will quickly cancel out any savings or rewards you earned.

Fill Your Cart, Then Leave

It’s probably happened to you before: You’ve added an item to your virtual shopping cart, never completed the purchase, but then immediately saw ads for that exact product all over the internet.

Online retailers track what you’ve left in your abandoned shopping cart. Sometimes they’ll even email you an offer in an attempt to get you to come back and complete your order. There’s no guarantee, but if you allow yourself the luxury of time, it’s worth a try.

A Final Thought

As you consider smart shopping tips, keep the spirit of gift giving in mind when you enter the holiday season. Thoughtful gifts will always be appreciated, no matter how much you spend. Giving things that have meaning – even things that don’t cost a dime, like your time – have the greatest impact.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

By selecting any external link on key.com, you will leave the KeyBank website and jump to an unaffiliated third-party website that may offer a different privacy policy and level of security. The third party is responsible for website content and system availability. KeyBank does not offer, endorse, recommend, or guarantee any product or service available on that entity's website.

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