25+ Easy Ways to Save Money But Still Get What You Want During Holiday Shopping


Whether you love it or you hate it, the gift giving season is here. If you buy gifts for the holiday season and you're not one of the lucky people who are already DONE — because you strategically purchased your gifts all year (by the way, congrats, kudos, and high five to you) — then it's time to gear up for the shopping season. But don't let what should be a fun and exciting time, become a stressful, exhausting, and masochistic exercise in worrying about budgets, costs, and spending. Below are more than 25 ideas and tips to help you save and put cash back in your pocket this holiday season.

Cash Back Sites Will Put Money Back in Your Pocket

Cash back sites are a must-do for holiday shopping. They provide cash back whether you shop online or in the store. These sites work by sharing the wealth. They earn a commission each time you click through to a store from their site and make a purchase. In return, they give you a portion, anywhere from 1-30%!

1. Check Traditional Cash Back Sites

Ebates is probably the most well-known cash back site They often have great deals on popular brands, like Old Navy, Amazon, Walmart, Kohl's, and much more. If you were planning on shopping at these stores anyway, why not get a big cash back discount for it? To get this cash back, all you have to do is click on the store via the ebates sites. Then just shop as usual and watch your cash back grow in your ebates account.

Ebates isn't the only game in town, however. With more than 30 cash back sites out there and the holiday sales season upon us, spend a little time comparing rates and sign up bonuses for the best deal.

2. Use Retail Shopping Cash Back Apps

Some sites offer cash back for retail store purchases, too! Ibotta is a shopping app that offers a lot of bang for the buck. Not only do they have the most cash back grocery offers, they also have great deals on various retail stores. For example, get cash back for yummy grocery treats like Ben and Jerry's ice cream or shopping at stores like JCPenney and Talbots. Sometimes these offer as much as 30% back! Simply upload your receipts to Ibotta and once the purchase is verified, the cash shows up in your account.

3. Look For Credit Card Shopping Portals

When reviewing your cash back options, don't forget to look at your credit card. Many offer online shopping portals that act just like traditional cash back sites. Depending on your credit card, you may get points or cash back. Sometimes you can get a much better rate through the credit card shopping portal, so it really is worth comparing. Awarded points typically show up during the next billing cycle.

Score Free Gift Cards and Cash for a Holiday Budget Boost

Would scoring a few hundred dollars in cash and free gift cards help your holiday budget? Well there's still time, and getting started is easy.

4. Bing for Free Gift Cards

Millions of people do it, but there are so many more who haven't yet taken the plunge! You can legitimately get paid to search the Internet. Bing has a rewards program that pays you to use their search engine on your computer and smartphone. Earn .25-.45 a day by doing something you probably do multiple times a day anyway. The daily earning amount might sound paltry but it adds up.

5. Check Your Email

Inbox Dollars is another program that pays you to search the Internet. Unlike Bing, however, Inbox Dollars is not a search engine, but a "get paid to" website where members can earn cash cards by performing multiple tasks such as completing surveys, trying out offers, watching videos, and yes, searching the Internet.

One unique aspect of their program is that you can get paid to read emails that they send you. You can choose to get involved in all of the earning options there, but it's good to know that like Bing, if you do nothing other than use their search function, and do it with a partner (and add in the paid emails for good measure), you can add a few hundred dollars a year to your holiday budget. Sign up today to get a $5.00 signup bonus!

6. Add Some Swag to Your Holiday Budget

Swagbucks is probably the largest and most well-known of the "get paid to" programs. To date, they have awarded members with more than 100 million dollars in cash and gift cards. What do you have to do? Watch videos, complete surveys, offers, and play games, but the difference between Swagbucks and similar sites is the breadth of earning options available.

To me, the best part of the site is the ability to earn by using your smartphone to watch videos. Swagbucks has a number of phone apps, and if you do nothing more than max out the videos available on the apps each month you'll have earned $25 in cash or gift cards. Put in a little more effort and it's fairly easy to earn $50 a month. Getting $600 a year for free definitely clears the way for you to keep your hard earned money in your pocket during the holidays. Sign up today for a $5 sign up bonus!

7. Sign up for a New Account

You can often score some nice bonus cash for signing up for a new bank account or a new credit card. Some credit cards offer as much as $500. (See also: Best Miles Sign Up Bonuses)

Save and Earn With Gift Cards

Whether the person you're buying for likes to receive gift cards as a gift, or likes stuff from a store that sells their own brand of gift card, you can save or make some holiday cash by doing one or all of these.

8. Purchase Your Gift Cards from a Discount Site

There are a number of reputable websites like Giftcards.com or Raise.com. You could save anywhere from 1-25%. Gyft is offering a $5 bonus on any gift card purchase of $15 or more. That's means a possible 33% savings right off the bat. Use your cards to buy gifts, stack with coupons and a sale, and that savings adds up!

9. Sell Your Gift Card for Cash

Have unwanted gift cards, or ones that you don't see yourself using any time soon? Sell them for extra cash and use it to fund your holiday budget. Depending on the brand, you could get up to 80% of your gift card's face value. Go to the aforementioned websites to see.

10. Buy a Gift With Your Gift Card

So you received a retail gift card as a present and you haven't used it yet. If there is someone on your holiday list who likes something from that store, use the gift card on them instead of buying something for yourself. You'll keep cash in your pocket and put a smile on someone's face. (See also: 4 Ways to Get the Most Out of Gift Cards)

Increase or Stretch Your Holiday Budget With eBay

Use eBay to its fullest potential during the holiday to save or earn extra cash.

11. Sell Your Stuff on eBay

You may have read it a million times before, but it bears repeating. Make some money by selling stuff on eBay. With a little effort you could have an extra $100-$500 cash for your holiday spending in no time. Think you don't have anything to sell? I bet you do. You wouldn't believe the crazy things that actually make money on eBay.

12. Purchase or Sell a Coupon on eBay

Sounds crazy, but every little bit helps. Would you spend $5 to save $25, $50, or $100? I would, and have when the coupon or discount is from a store where they are hard to come by. Sometimes retailers send discounts and coupons to a select group of people. Savvy folks who know they won't use them, sell them on eBay for extra cash. Buy one to save some money, or sell your own coupons. It's a win-win.

13. Purchase a Discount Gift Card on eBay

Many times you can get a better deal by purchasing a gift card at a discount on eBay than from discount gift card websites. Always check both to be sure. When in the market for a larger denomination, I've scored 25% off of the face value by purchasing on eBay. Combine that with a crazy sale and a coupon and that's some mad holiday savings you've got going on.

14. Purchase Your Gift at a Discount eBay

Have you ever purchased anything for yourself on eBay to get a great price? Why not buy a gift for someone else that way? There are tons of NIB (new in box) items that have never been used or worn that people are selling because they're not using. Get the gift you want for less. Before you bid (or buy it now), don't forget to check the discount gift card sites to see if there are any discounted eBay gift cards for sale. Get your bargain at a discount, I always say.

Use Credit Card Rewards and Benefits

If you have credit and/or loyalty cards that earn points with purchase, now is the time to redeem them and shrink your out-of-pocket spending for the holidays.

15. Redeem Credit Card Points

If you're like my husband and I, you put as much as you can on your credit card and immediately pay it when it is due, which nets us a couple of hundred dollars a year in points. (See also: Best Cash Back Credit Cards)

Many cards offer a cash option, like requesting a check or applying points to your bill. They also have gift card malls where you can redeem your points for your favorite retailer. If you're lucky, you'll catch the card you want at a discounted points price, which means you're saving money and stretching your points so they go further.

16. Use Airline Miles and Hotel Points

Many airline and hotel point programs offer the ability to exchange points for gift cards. This often overlooked feature can decrease your out-of-pocket holiday expenses. Redeem your points for gift cards and use those to purchase a present or two. (See also: 5 Best Airline Credit Cards)

17. Check for Credits, Discounts, and Perks

In addition to receiving points for purchases, some credit cards have a "special benefits" section with offers that can save you money like a statement credit with purchase. For instance, I have received an offer of a $50 statement credit when purchasing at least $100 at a big, well-known retailer by a certain date. I have also seen smaller offers like a $5 statement credit with a gas purchase of $25 or more at specific stations. Every little bit helps! Combine your offers with a sale, add a coupon, and pay the balance off with points, and you'll be all kinds of jolly over the savings.

Research Store Offers

Don't forget about the extra savings you can get through special offers from stores, including bundles or free gift cards for purchases.

18. Take Advantage of Bundles and Bonuses

Increase your holiday gift savings and put some cash back in your pocket by looking for bonuses and bundles. To encourage you to buy higher end items like televisions, computers, and smart phones, retailers may offer a bonus on top of a sale. The bonus may be in the form of some kind of bundle, but could also take the shape of gift cards to that store.

Target and other retailers are known for doing this, and it can be an awesome deal, especially on items that never go on sale. Take Apple products, for example. Apple is notorious for not having sales. During the holiday season, however, they usually offer a gift card when purchasing specific items.

That's great, but before you hop on that deal, check out other stores first to see what they are offering with purchase. You may find that the gift card amount at other stores is greater (think $50-$150) than at Apple. So not only do you get a better discount, you can use that gift card bonus at a store that offers a wider range of goods and check off other items on your holiday gift giving list. Or you could sell the gift card for actual cash.

19. Check Out Jet

You may have seen commercials for new online retailer Jet. Touted as an alternative to Amazon, many commenters say the prices are better. My thoughts? It's definitely worth a look. I found that Amazon's selection is simply much greater than Jet, but it was easy enough to find things that I would want to buy.

How about the prices? It depends. Sometimes Jet's prices were better, sometimes not. However, Jet is being aggressive with promotions right now, like 20% off and $10 off. Since Amazon doesn't offer such discounts, you could find that Jet is the better deal this holiday season.

20. Love Target? Save Even More

Remember that Target REDcard credit and debit card holders receive an extra 5% off of their purchases. The discount works in stores and online, and after all other coupons and discounts have been factored in. Plus, REDcard holders receive free shipping on purchases from Target.com with no minimum purchase every day, and an extra 30 days for returns. Download the Target mobile app and gain access to additional discounts that aren't advertised to the general public. Combining these discounts could either get you to the best price, or make the best price even sweeter.

21. Stack Your Discounts in Novel Ways

To get your best deal, put all of your cards on the table: sales, coupons, (discount) gift cards, credit card points, statement credits, loyalty card points, and cash back sites; and try different combinations. For example, buy a discount gift card with a points earning credit card. Get your best sales price, find a coupon to lower the price even more, and pay for the item with your discounted gift card. If it's something that has a cash back deal on a shopping app like Ibotta, and you've spent the minimum amount, upload your receipt, get a cash rebate and save even more! Use the points earned through your credit card purchase and redeem for cash or free gift cards! There are hundreds of different savings combinations. Find what works for you.

22. Don't Forget About Price Adjustments and Matches

After you've stacked all of the discounts you can to maximize your savings, don't miss out on the potential cash back that can come from price adjustments and matches. Big retailers like Target, Walmart, Kohl's, Best Buy, Amazon, and other large and smaller stores have price adjustment/match policies which provide a little extra insurance that you are getting the best price. (See also: Here's How to Get a Sale Price-Match at 16 Popular Stores)

But what if you forget to check, don't have time, or feel it's not worth the hassle? If you've purchased some of your gifts online, let Paribus, seek out a price adjustment for you. In a nutshell, Paribus will search for a better price on that gift that you purchased online and get the difference back for you. Some credit cards also offer similar services. Many credit cards offer price protection for purchases within 30-60 days. (See also: Awesome Credit Card Benefits You Didn't Know You Had)

Try Novel Gift Options

There are ways to be part of the gift giving without dropping a ton of cash.

23. Regift

Often overlooked or thought of as tacky, or cheap, regifting gets a bad rap that it doesn't deserve. If you've received a gift card, or lovely store bought item that you'll never use and know someone who will genuinely appreciate it, give it to them! What's better, having something sit in a closet collecting dust and taking up space, or having someone get real enjoyment out of it? (See also: The Rules for Regifting)

24. Turn Gift Giving into Events and Games

Instead of buying something for everyone in the office or even in the family, pool the gift giving into fun activities like Secret Santa or White Elephant. This allows you to only spring for one person in the group, without it being awkward or strange. (See also: 15 Genius Gifts for Office Secret Santa)

25. Think Homemade

If you have a lot of people on your gift giving list like neighbors and co-workers, think homemade! Who doesn't love fresh baked cookies or other treats? How about a bottle of homemade liqueur? After years of accumulating things, sometimes these become the most favorite gifts of all. (See also: 25 Gifts You Can Make Today)

26. Offer Time and Services

If you're truly looking for some gift ideas when you're broke but have lots of time, try offering services, like babysitting, petsitting, cooking, or anything else that a busy person would appreciate. We've got a list of 20 Great Ideas for Free Gifts. (See also: 10 Gift Ideas That Cost Almost Nothing)

27. Buy Nothing. Bah Humbug!

This is for all who eschew our consumerist ways and think we should just buy nothing. The best way to save is not to spend, after all. There, I've said it. And it's true. Did that change your mind? Not this year? Well, maybe in the future. Here's to a happy, safe, and inexpensive holiday season for all!

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.