18 Tips to Save Money on Your Holiday Shopping

From planning your purchases to shipping them out, there are so many opportunities to save.

Holiday shopping rarely comes without stress. From navigating crowded stores and scavenging for high-demand products to scrambling for last-minute gifts and dealing with shipping delays, the whole process can feel like an episode of retail-themed Survivor. What's more, the financial burden from holiday shopping adds to the stress, while also feeling impossible to avoid.

Help is on the way! Let us show you ways to save money this holiday season and feel more in control of your expenses. We tapped experts in finance and shopping for their best tips for saving on holiday shopping, so you can gift yourself a little less stress this year.

Prep Before You Shop

Sort promo emails like a pro. Email subscribers often score exclusive deals, but no one wants to trawl through a flooded inbox. Create an email account that's solely for these promos, and then add filters for specific gifts. For example: If you want a deal on a new PlayStation, create a filter for the words "PlayStation 5" and "PS5" so emails with those terms get automatically forwarded to your regular inbox. —Anna Barker, personal finance expert and founder of LogicalDollar

Track your spending easily. If you have an iPhone and iPad, use the Santa's Bag app (free; iOS) to store all your shopping lists in one place. Add everyone to your holiday list (via contacts or manually) and then save links to the gifts they want. The app keeps a running tab of what you've spent as well as your budget, showing you how much you have left. —Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet

Budget with gift cards. Set a budget and purchase gift cards for that amount. When the balance hits zero, it's time to stop spending.—Colleen McCreary, chief people officer at Credit Karma

Shop on Green Monday. That's when many retailers slash prices to sell off holiday inventory. It falls on December 12 this year. (It's also called Cyber Monday 2.) You'll often see discounts of 25 to 50 percent, and it's one of the last days you can choose free standard shipping and get the items before Christmas.—Shannon Vissers, shopping analyst at Merchant Maverick

Time your purchases. Electronics are typically cheaper on Black Friday, while clothing tends to be cheaper on Cyber Monday. Fitness gear, activewear, and bedding are definitely less expensive in January—so if someone on your list wants any of those, get them a gift card for the current retail price. That way, if they buy the item when it's discounted, they'll have some money left over. —Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews

Use store apps. Download the store's app before you shop. I've seen app-exclusive deals of 50 percent off or more. You can expect deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but also check the apps on weekdays, when many stores offer app-exclusive flash sales.—Kristen Gall, president and shopping expert at Rakuten

Save on Electronics

Consider refurbished. Nervous about preowned? Don't be. Refurbished products are inspected to help ensure they're in good shape. Check out the Amazon Warehouse, which sells like-new open-box products; I've seen discounts of up to 70 percent, often just because the packaging is damaged. It's a good place to look for cell phones, tablets, and TVs. In Apple's Certified Refurbished store, products are up to 15 percent cheaper and come with a one-year warranty. —Brittney Castro, certified financial planner with Mint

Opt for last-gen tech. You don't have to splurge for the newest model. Phones, tablets, and laptops that are one or two generations old can be at least $100 cheaper. Many have most of the same features as new models, and if the item works on the same operating system, you'll usually be able to get some of the new upgrades. —Julie Ramhold

Think Outside the (Gift) Box

Hack Your Subscription Box. I take unused items from my subscription boxes and create gift bundles. My niece and cousin love getting beauty bags from me, and I feel better that I didn't waste a nail polish or lipstick. —Lauren Anastasio, certified financial planner at SoFi

Check Your Credit Card Perks. American Express Platinum cardholders can donate points to a charitable organization on behalf of a loved one. (You can choose from more than 950,000 U.S. nonprofits.) If you have a hotel-branded credit card, it may come with a certificate for a free night. Or you might be sitting on a stash of points you can give someone for a hotel stay or a flight. —Benét Wilson, former senior editor at the Points Guy

Cut Costs Without Coupons

Use a Private Browser. It keeps your data hidden so retailers don't change prices on you. A standard browser records your searches and online activity through cookies, which are then shared with website hosts. Based on your previous purchases and what you've been willing to pay for certain items, retailers can manipulate prices to maximize profits. —Andrea Woroch, family budgeting expert at andreaworoch.com

Scroll social media. Influencers and brand ambassadors often share discount codes around the holidays, and you don't even have to follow each one. If you go to the brand's page, they'll likely be sharing these posts. —Fo Alexander, certified financial educator and founder of mamaandmoney.com

Find look-alikes. Type "dupe" behind the product name you're searching for online, and you may score a bargain knockoff. I've found designer bag dupes for $50 (versus the retail price of nearly $4,000!) and look-alike boots for around $60. —Trina Small, founder of the lifestyle blog Hey Trina

Just ask. I've gotten 20 percent off designer boots simply by asking the sales associate. I also got free shipping from a home goods store by calling customer service, and 20 percent off office supplies by using the live chat. —Andrea Woroch

Price-match the smart way. I use browser extensions like Popcart. As you browse, it alerts you if there's a better price elsewhere. Google Shopping also offers extensive price comparisons and can send you a price drop alert. For brick-and-mortar stores, I like the Capital One Shopping app (free; iOS and Android). It searches retailers like Walmart, Target, and Costco for the best deals. Pull up those apps in the store, and they may be willing to price-match. —Trae Bodge, shopping expert at truetrae.com

Ship Without Stress

Tap cards for free shipping. Some American Express, Mastercard, and Chase cards come with a complimentary ShopRunner membership, which offers free two-day shipping and free return shipping at more than 100 online retailers. —Brittney Castro

Know when to mail it. Generally, USPS' Priority Mail packages arrive fastest (in one to three days) and are a better value for gifts up to 70 pounds. For larger, UPS is usually preferable. I'd also use them for more valuable gifts because I've had better experience with their tracking system. To get the lowest ground price, you generally want to send gifts by December 15. —Shannon Vissers

Choose curbside. Save on shipping fees at checkout by using the "pick up in store" option. You might even land extra discounts by going this route. Some shoppers who picked up items have received an additional 10 to 15 percent off at certain department stores, and some stores have even offered gift cards. —Trae Bodge

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