‘Tis the season to start thinking about holiday shopping (cue the carols!) But, like most things in 2020, the way you’ll go about checking everyone off your gift list is bound to be a bit different this year. Major retailers including Target and Walmart have already announced they’ll be closed on Thanksgiving Day—doing away with the traditional jumpstart to Black Friday shopping—and the coronavirus has led to delays and backlogs for some brands.
Still, there is plenty to be merry about. You can expect to save money thanks to more online discounts, Cyber Monday deals, and special holiday pricing in the months leading up to Christmas. Retailers have also come up with clever ways to streamline the shopping experience like expanded curbside pickup and same-day delivery. And it has never been a better time to support your local community by spending your holiday gift budget at independently owned shops or buying gift cards to your favorite neighborhood restaurants. Plus, there are plenty of ways to spread holiday cheer without it costing a lot, from DIY gifts to keepsake-worthy ornaments to homemade treats that are sure to be crowd-pleasers.
From money-saving tricks to out-of-the-box gift ideas, read on for more ways to help make this year’s holiday shopping stress-free, safe, and fun.
1. Make a Budget and Stick to It
One of the biggest stressors of holiday shopping is overspending, so be sure to create a budget before you hit the stores. First, figure out the total you can afford to spend on gifts. Then, make a list of the people you would like to give to and allocate portions of your budget toward each person. Apps like Christmas Gift List Tracker and Santa’s Bag do the math and organize purchases for you (though a pen and paperwork just fine, too!). If you’re planning to DIY gifts, be sure to factor the cost of materials into your budget.
2. Shop Small
Small Business Saturday, which encourages shoppers to spend within their communities the Saturday after Thanksgiving, hit a record high last year according to a survey from American Express and the National Federation of Small Business—a hopeful sign for independently owned shops who need holiday dollars more than ever this season. Spending at your local shops not only helps your neighborhood, but you are also bound to find unique, curated gifts for friends and family, too. Check out the Shop Small Map to find stores and restaurants in your area.
3. Make Use of Curbside Pickup
With coronavirus making social distancing essential, many retailers are offering curbside pickup for merchandise purchased via their website or app. Lots of shoppers have been taking advantage already (according to Adobe Analytics, purchases made online then picked up at a store have increased 62% from last year), and it’s one easy way to streamline your holiday shopping and avoid long lines.
4. Sign Up with Your Favorite Stores
Sure, promotional emails can clog up your inbox, but if you are a devotee of a particular store, they are worth signing up for as they often include discount codes and sale previews. Be sure to investigate loyalty programs, too. Most are free to join and offer benefits like exclusive sales for members, discounts on purchases, and rewards for dollars spent.
5. Support Companies That Give Back (or Make a Direct Donation)
Check people off your gift list—and do some good—by buying from companies that give a portion of their profits to important causes. For book lovers, check Out of Print, which supports literacy programs; Hand in Hand donates soap to children in developing countries for every bar sold while the toys and apparel at Box Lunch help get food to the hungry via Feed America. Another great way to make a difference: Choose a charity based on a friend or family member’s passions and make a donation in his or her name (one of our favorites for kids: the adorable stuffed animal and certificate that come with a symbolic species adoption benefitting the World Wildlife Fund).
6. Take Advantage of Free Shipping
December 14 is Free Shipping Day when hundreds of retailers provide free shipping on orders guaranteed to arrive by Christmas Eve. It is especially worth waiting for if you have your eye on gifts from online shops that usually add shipping costs. You’ll find a list of stores that participate in Free Shipping Day here.
7. Shop Early
Keeping your eyes open for holiday presents year-round not only prevents you from having to pay for all your gifts within a few weeks, but it also adds a thrill to the hunt through flea markets, vintage stores, and souvenir shops, all great sources for affordable gifts. Shopping early is a good idea for online purchases, too. You will be able to take advantage of sales events like Cyber Monday when gifts are discounted and will also ensure presents have plenty of time to arrive.
8. Update Your Apps
The secret to savings may be as easy as pulling out your phone thanks to apps designed to find discounts. ShopSavvy lets users scan the barcode of an item, then reports back on the best prices for it both online and locally. For holiday food shopping, Coupons.com organizes free digital coupons from your local grocery stores and lets you upload paper ones (for some stores, you can also upload your paper receipt and receive cashback to your PayPal account). Before you make a purchase, check Retail Me Not, which provides access to discount codes, coupons, and cashback offers for clothes, tech, restaurants, and more.
9. Start a Secret Santa Tradition
For big families or groups of friends, consider starting a Secret Santa tradition where each person picks another’s name at random and focuses on their gift only (instead of everyone buying for everybody). This way, you can put more thought, money, and time into finding them something they will truly love. Plus, it is fun to see the surprised looks when recipients try to guess who their mystery gift-giver is.
10. Expand Your Gift List
Whether it’s your mail carrier who’s delivered package after package, a teacher who’s done their best to adjust to the challenges of distance learning, or a neighbor who’s been extra helpful, think through the people in your community who have made a difference this year and, if you can, add them to your gift list to thank them. Handmade cards, baked goods, or gift baskets, are all great ways to show your appreciation.