Too soon to think about Christmas you say? Not if you want to minimize your spending while maximizing your giving! I’m going to give you a few tips for saving money this holiday season, and hopefully free up a few dollars to be able to give to charities in need this season.

  1. Buy in Bulk

After all the relatives and friends on your Christmas list is the slew of teachers, coaches, mail carriers, neighbors, and co-workers. Rather than worrying about putting together an individual gift for each one, save both money and time by creating a theme basket to give to them all. Things like movie tickets and coffee gift cards are easily transformed into lovely baskets with just a few little extras inside. Add a single pack of popcorn and some boxed candy to your movie tickets and you’ve created something a little more special and still kept your cost down. Coffee gift cards fit really well inside a mug with added chocolates. Rather than spending $10 on the mug alone, check stores like T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, and Tuesday Morning for cute mugs in their clearance section for as little as $2 each.

  1. Coupons

Nearly every store you go to offers coupons by email. Before you head to the mall, sign up for these coupons ahead of time. I suggest having a secondary email just for these store coupons, unless you have no problem with an inbox full every day!

Craft stores regularly have 40-50% off coupons available to those on their mailing lists. Even if you aren’t looking or crafting items, you can use them for things like frames, candles, and wrapping supplies.

  1. Buy Online

While driving from one store to another may not be possible for price comparing, having more than one browser tab open certainly is! Especially when shopping for brand name items, comparing prices across a few key Internet stores is essential. Most things do not change a whole lot from year to year, but companies still come out with new models each year. Shopping online gives you the ability to purchase last years model for a discounted price without sacrificing quality.

  1. Whole Family Gifts

If you are purchasing gifts for an entire family, consider purchasing something they can do altogether. Families with small children may benefit from memberships to the local zoo or children’s museum while families with older children may enjoy memberships to the local science museum or historical society.

For families who may only see each other a few times a year, think of getting them an activity they can all participate in such as a bowling gift card, tickets to a sporting event (doesn’t have to be a professional team, think of college sports to keep the cost down), or even a movie ticket gift basket.

  1. Parents Hate Toys

This tip has more to do with a change of mindset, with the added benefit of saving money. Plastic toys with flashing lights and ear piercing noises are of no benefit to anyone. Typically a child loses interest in these toys soon after receiving them. Instead, why not head to your local craft store (coupons in hand!) and buy them something creative to do. Whether it’s painting, drawing, model making, sculpting, beading, sewing, or knitting there is definitely something for every kid on your list.

Crafts may not last forever, but at least they help to grow the imagination and creativity of the child or teen in your life.

  1. Shop with intention.

Rather than heading to the stores wide-eyed and overly caffeinated, start with a plan by putting into writing what you would like to spend on each person. There are many apps and programs online to help you organize your shopping list, but a good old standard spreadsheet does the job for me. This way I can keep track of my spending, and see where I need to cut back or increase my expectations.

If you’ve made your list out early enough you will be able to start your shopping earlier in the season, keeping an eye out for sales and clearance prices. This also helps to avoid over shopping for any particular person on your list.

I hope I’ve been able to give you a few ideas on how to save a few extra dollars this holiday season. If you have any suggestions that you’d like to add, please leave them in the comments section below!

Happy Shopping!