Christmas is looming in the near future. How did that happen? How did a big portion of the year go by so fast? So now it's three months away and those three months will go fast, especially if you aren't prepared.
Have you started saving for the big day yet? I haven't, but I'm not concerned. For me, October is a three paycheque month, meaning I'll be able to spend the third cheque on gifts.
I have some ideas as to how to save money, so one cheque should be enough for Christmas. I used to work in retail, and did so for years. I got the hang of the Christmas season really well back then.
So here's how I plan to save money on Christmas and how you should too:
Start Shopping Now
I know. It's three months away. Shopping now seams overzealous and obsessive. But you can save some major green if you do this.
I worked at three different stores in retail, and I had friends that worked in other retail stores, and the consensus was almost unanimous: retail stores do not have sales anytime near the holidays. That's just how they operate. If they do hold sales, they are on summer items and/or substantially less than you'd be able to save at that same store at any other time of the year.
The stores at which I worked stopped having sales about a month before Christmas; we'd usually take down the sale signs by November 15 or so. I'm going to be shopping for Christmas in early October to maximize my savings AND my selection. Malls start to get busy about a month before the holidays as well, so be prepared to lose out on getting some of the gifts you'd like if you leave it to the last minute.
Comparison Shop Online
I love shopping online because it makes it easy to comparison shop, which is especially important around the holidays when looking for some deals.
If you are gifting a loved one something that is well known or in demand, comparison shop online. Sometimes, there are online coupon codes you can use or promotions going on at certain stores over other ones.
Even if you don't buy the item online, but would rather buy it in store (avoid those shipping fees), you can see what stores have the best deals online instead of having to run back and forth to stores to check prices and stock.
Look on Craigslist/Kijiji/Facebook
No, I'm not suggesting that you go out and buy your loved ones something used (that's just tacky). What I'm suggesting instead is that you look for unopened goods at a discounted price on these websites.
Sometimes people get "free gift with purchase" items that they would rather sell than use. Sometimes, they get something they already had at a birthday or celebration. And sometimes, people change their mind and a store's no refund policy gives them no choice.
This can also help with stock; if you can't find an item anywhere (because they've all been snapped up because you were too lazy/in denial and didn't go Christmas shopping earlier) perhaps somebody has a new one that they want to sell on one of the classified boards.
Gift Card Discounts
If you are going to go the gift card route, look on the ad boards mentioned above first for somebody who is trying to get rid of a card to the store that you are thinking of. If not, check sites like plasticjungle.com which will give you a discount on most gift cards (if they have them in stock).
You can also try collecting Swagbucks (referral link) to bank up points for Christmas shopping; you can get gift cards on there (and also some other products - or, get gift cards and spend them on products for gifts).
There are probably plenty of ways you can save money on Christmas. How do you do it?