Save hard: 10 last-minute holiday savings tips when you’re down to the wire

Dec 5, 2023 12:26 PM PST
4 minute read
Save hard: 10 last-minute holiday savings tips when you’re down to the wire


10 ways to save money on last-minute holiday shopping.

"Yippee-ki-yay, it’s the holidays!" As the year draws to a close, many of us find ourselves in a familiar situation—scrambling for those last-minute gifts, and our wallets singing carols of despair. Plus, military life often means you are rushing to the post office to drop packages off hoping they will get to loved ones in the nick of time. While it may not be as thrilling as a certain action-packed holiday movie, the quest to save on holiday spending can be just as heart-pounding. Let’s channel our inner John McClane and count down the 10 savvy ways to rescue your holiday budget when you're down to the wire:

1. DIY gifts: The MacGyver of savings

When time is short and your budget is smaller than the Grinch's heart before it grew two sizes, DIY gifts can be your best friend. Think beyond the typical arts and crafts; create thoughtful, personalized Pinterest-worthy presents. For instance, bake homemade cookies, craft custom candles, or hand-paint ornaments. Even the manliest of men will appreciate a well-crafted, homemade gift, like a DIY beer caddy or a personalized leather keychain.

2. Shop with credit card cashback and points

If you've been using a rewards credit card all year or are considering opening a new cash-back card, now's the time to pull the trigger on those points and rewards. Many credit cards offer cash back, which can be used as a statement credit to reduce your holiday spending. For example, Navy Federal Credit Union’s cashRewards Credit Card offers a $250 bonus cash back and a one-time $98 statement credit when you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days. Plus, you’ll earn 1.75% cash back on your purchases when you get a cashRewards card and enroll in direct deposit. Without direct deposit, you’ll still earn 1.5% cashback. Alternatively, redeem your points for gift cards, travel, or merchandise—which would also make for pretty sweet gifts.

3. Utilize shopping portals

Online shopping is a convenient way to snag those last-minute gifts. However, before you hit the "checkout" button, consider using a shopping portal. Websites like Rakuten, Swagbucks, or your credit card's online shopping portal can offer cash back or extra rewards when you click through their links to make purchases. Plus, several of these have browser extensions that will notify you of available cash-back opportunities. These portals can be the secret weapon in your holiday savings arsenal.

4. The power of discount codes and coupons

Before hitting the checkout button online, never underestimate the power of a good discount code or coupon. Websites like RetailMeNot or Honey can automatically find and apply the best available discounts for your purchases. Just like the cash-back tools mentioned above, several of these sites also have browser extensions that will automatically check available codes for you to make sure you are getting the best price.

5. Be a Secret Santa maestro

For larger groups or extended family gatherings, consider adopting a Secret Santa gift exchange. This way, you only need to purchase one thoughtful gift, rather than a pile of presents for everyone. Set a reasonable spending limit to ensure fairness, and watch your holiday budget woes fade away. If your family is the competitive type, see who can be the most creative and thoughtful in their gift and see who can win bragging rights for the rest of the year.

6. Thrifty and nifty thrift store finds

Thrift stores are a goldmine for unique, budget-friendly gifts. You can discover vintage treasures, rare books, or quirky ornaments that will leave your loved ones genuinely surprised. This approach also adds a touch of sustainability to your holiday season. Don’t be afraid to also check out Facebook Marketplace to see if you can snag a good deal on a high-ticket item your loved one has been eyeing for a while.

7. Regift with grace and style

Regifting gets a bad rap, but it can be a smart way to save money during the holidays. Just remember to do it with grace and style. Give the gift a new look or a fresh twist, and make sure it's something that will genuinely be appreciated by the recipient.

8. Embrace the beauty of e-gift cards

E-gift cards are your best friend when time is of the essence. They are instantly available, and you can choose from a vast array of options, from major retailers to popular restaurants. Plus, it's a great way to ensure your recipient gets exactly what they want. Keep a lookout for deals where you can get an extra $5 or $10 gift card when you purchase a certain amount.

9. Shop local and support small businesses

Small businesses often have unique and handmade gifts that can't be found in big-box stores. Plus, supporting local businesses puts money back into your community. Look for boutiques or popups that may showcase handmade items from local sellers in your area. It's a win-win for you and your neighbors and adds a special touch to any gift.

10. Delay the celebration

If all else fails, consider delaying your gift exchange until after the holidays. Prices on decorations, wrapping paper, and even some gifts tend to drop significantly post-holiday. You can still enjoy quality time with loved ones and save a bundle.

Just because you might be counting it down to the last second to get those holiday gifts doesn’t mean you can’t save this holiday season. Resourcefulness and determination are the keys to conquering the holiday season's challenges with these last-minute savings tips. Whether you're a DIY expert, a rewards card pro, or a Secret Santa maestro, these strategies will help you save money while still spreading joy and holiday cheer. So, this year, make your holiday budget say, "Yippee ki-yay, I did it!"


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