Skip to content
Chaz SomersDecember 7, 202212 min read

Christmas shopping on a budget

avatar Chaz Somers

Chaz Somers started his professional career as a part-time social media contractor at ZayZoon and since then, has evolved into a full-time content marketing associate. Chaz’s love for branding and storytelling has led him to blog writing, clothing design and video production all within ZayZoon.

Christmas shopping on a budget isn’t ideal but for most people, it’s a reality. On top of that, the holiday season is one that usually brings some pretty strong emotions with it. Some people can’t wait to start planning their decorations and shopping lists while others see it as a big hassle that they'd just rather get over with. We hope this year you’re filled with joy and cheer—but if the thought of the holidays (and the additional costs that come with it) stresses you out, this article should be able to help. 

In this blog, we’ve put together a list of 11 tips and tricks to help you save money during the holidays—and hopefully have some fun while you're doing it. 


Shop on a budget/plan ahead 

As the holiday season rolls around, it’s common for people to find themselves looking into some pretty big purchases, however, going into the holiday season with no plan or budget can leave you dealing with some major problems come January when the credit card bills show up. When it comes to holiday shopping, the most important (and maybe obvious) thing you need to do is create a budget. 

A good budget should take all costs into account. Some major costs to consider include:

  • Gifts (presents, cards, etc.)
  • Food 
  • Travel 
  • Decorations
  • Holiday-specific events 

Creating a budget and sticking to it is certainly easier said than done. We suggest planning your budget as early as possible to help ease this whole process. 

Once the holidays finally do arrive and with so many deals flying around, pulling the trigger on larger purchases can feel much easier. This is great, assuming it’s part of your budget—but what most people don’t take into account is the thing that can end up causing the most headaches: the little purchases. 

The little things quickly add up. When you’re out shopping all day it’s easy to justify splurging on yourself just a little. Whether it’s a quick meal or even a specialty coffee you love so much. Stack a few of these transactions on top of each other and it will leave you with a pretty hefty bill. 

We’re not saying avoid these small purchases altogether but we would suggest trying to stay extra mindful of them and how they could multiply when building your budget. 


Find savings online 

Once upon a time there was a thing called flyers. Flyers used to magically show up at your door and tell you about all the wonderful deals and savings available to you at the local shops. These magical flyers would show you all the new gadgets, where to get them, and how to save money on them—now we have the internet. 

The internet has made finding savings easier than ever. Now we have websites, apps, and even internet extensions that are designed to not only save you money but to make it as easy and accessible as possible. We strongly suggest utilizing at least one of these methods when shopping around to help you save time and money this holiday season, some of our favorites include: 


Honey is a chrome extension and app that ensures you’re getting the best possible deal. As you’re checking out of any online store, Honey will automatically search the entire internet to see if there are any codes that apply to you. It’s great for any major retailer and although it won’t give you a discount 100% of the time, it will let you know you’re getting the best offer possible. They also offer rewards and incentives on purchases.


If you like couponing, then you’re going to love Flipp! Flipp is a beautiful couponing interface that is extremely user friendly. Simply put in your zip code/postal code and start searching for deals. Flipp will organize every single flyer available for you to scroll through, just like your traditional flyers, except with clickable links to each product. 


Rakuten is a cashback platform that partners with some of the biggest and most recognizable retailers in the world. With Rakuten, you simply choose the online store you’d like to shop at out of their long list of partners, then you’ll be redirected to that site where you’ll earn a certain percentage of cashback on your purchase. They offer cash incentives for referring people, deals on gift cards, and coupons on their site as well. 


ShopSavvy is a shopping transparency service. With ShopSavvy, you can rest assured that you’ll be paying the fairest price possible. ShopSavvy lets you compare the prices at thousands of different retailers. They also offer alerts on deals, drops in price, and restocks on items you’re interested in. 

These tools are great and each one should bring value to your shopping experience but at the end of the day, there is always the more traditional route. Signing up for email lists at your favorite stores is a great way to stay up-to-date with all the best deals while also taking advantage of any other incentives that store may offer. Whether it's a big box store like Costco or Sam’s club, or one of your local favorites, getting on email lists is never a bad idea.

 If you're a current ZayZoon customer, definitely check out some of the perks we offer—specifically, Boost [embed link to boost page]. Boost allows you to payout your earned wages to a gift card with one of our participating vendors and gain up to 20% more. In case you're curious, we partner with most big retailers. Boost gives you the opportunity to get more for less and stretch your earnings a bit further. If you aren't a ZayZoon customer, definitely talk to your employer and we can see if there's an opportunity for us to work together.


Shop thoughtful/avoid clutter  

Let’s be honest—expensive gifts are overrated and anyone who disagrees has yet to find the true meaning of the holidays. Your loved ones will always remember a thoughtful gift you got them, no matter how inexpensive. To this day, the best gift I have ever received was a $25 Kings of Leon shirt. I had gone to a show earlier that year with some friends and regretted not buying merch to commemorate it. My friend Greg saw this opportunity and took advantage of it. The shirt doesn’t even fit me anymore but still holds tremendous sentimental value. (Pro-tip: Anything food or music related is always a great way to someone’s heart)

Buying someone a gift they don’t want will only add to the holiday clutter. Avoid this unnecessary clutter by shopping thoughtfully. Showing how much you care about someone can’t be measured by a price tag or how big the gift is, it’s based on the time, the energy and the love that is put into it. A thoughtful gift looks different to everyone, this is exactly what makes it thoughtful. Avoid simply showing up to the mall with rough ideas and a budget. Take the time to consider what each person on your list truly wants, truly needs, or will truly appreciate and don’t worry about the cost (as long as it’s within your budget). 

The gift could be as simple as something that commemorates the time you’ve enjoyed with a loved one or an experience you’ve shared together. Although easier said than done, buying something small that symbolizes something much greater is always a safe bet. 


Team up for big gifts 

Sometimes the most thoughtful gifts are a little expensive and that’s okay too. We have a solution. There always seems to be at least one person on your list who deserves the world—or maybe you know the perfect gift for someone but it’s just out of your price range. 

Partnering with loved ones who share similar feelings toward the person you’re buying for is always a great way to get more bang for your buck. Instead of limiting yourself to a $50 gift, find one or two (or even more) people to team up with. The options and the quality available to you will improve greatly. 


Offer your time 

Do you have a skill that would bring value to somebody's life? Maybe you know someone in need of a little extra support or some company. Offering these people your time is one of the most thoughtful and selfless things you can do. Whether it be big or small, offering your time is not only inexpensive but a guaranteed way to show your love and support for someone.

This may be something as simple as an IOU for tasks you know that person doesn’t enjoy (i.e. washing dishes, yard work, laundry, etc.) or it may be as extreme as using your professional skills to bring something to life (cooking dinner, carpentry work, etc.). 

One of the greatest gifts you can give anyone is your time. It’s the ultimate resource and sharing yours with someone is invaluable. 


Wrap more, buy less

When the shopping is all said and done, sometimes it’s nice to make those gifts go a little further. On one end of the spectrum, combining two complimentary gifts and wrapping them into one totally makes sense in theory, especially if you have a lot of gifts, a big family, and you’re trying to speed up the unwrapping process but if you find yourself trying to get the most out of your Christmas mornings—we would suggest doing the opposite. 

We’re not advocating for more waste but we do believe this is a good way to make your money go further. If wrapping paper is a cost you’d like to cut down on, there are plenty of DIY tutorials on the internet that should inspire some homemade ideas that should cost you less. We also recommend wrapping as efficiently as possible. If you’re anything like me, one wrap job takes a couple of tries, this video should help with that. 

Wrapping more is a great way to buy less. If you’ve purchased something in a set, or multiple versions of similar products, consider wrapping them individually. This will make the presents under your tree look more bountiful and extend the time you get to spend unwrapping. 


Gamify your experience 

Another fun way to improve your holiday experience without adding to your spending is to gamify things. The holidays are supposed to be fun and turning a simple gift exchange into a game is not only a surefire way to get people excited and entertained—but it’s also a great way to avoid unnecessary spending.

There’s nothing wrong with a classic like Secret Santa but if you feel like switching things up this year, we might be able to help. Whether it’s your family, a large group of friends, or simply just a game for the kids, this list of 18 Fun Gift Exchange Games should help. 


Shop Alone

Have you ever asked a friend for encouragement to buy something you didn’t necessarily need? I think most of us have. 

These types of friends are important to have in your life, especially when you have a hard time treatin’ yourself—but when it comes to holiday shopping, it might be best to leave these types of friends at home. 

If you’re easily influenced by someone else's poor spending habits then leave those friends behind and shop by yourself. Set a goal, follow your budget and stay focused! Shopping with overspenders, although fun, will always encourage you to spend more—which makes sticking to your budget extremely challenging. 


Give, don’t buy 

Maybe you’re the type who doesn’t need encouragement to shop for themselves, this is great but may make shopping for you quite hard from your loved one's perspective. 

During the months leading up to the holidays, make it easier on your loved ones by avoiding buying for yourself (and if you don't get what you want—simply utilize post-holiday sales). Holding off on unnecessary purchases throughout November and December will not only put more money in your pockets to spend on loved ones but it will also make their shopping experience easier. 

Avoid overspending on kids (Rule of 5: a want, a need, a wear, a read, an experience)

Kids don’t know the value of money and frankly, they just don't care. Some might see this as a bad thing but ultimately when it comes to holiday shopping, this is a major plus. The gifts your children receive set major precedence in their life, spoiling them with unnecessary gifts early on can make it very hard for them to show gratitude in the future. We suggest the rule of 5; a want, a need, a wear, a read, and an experience. 


Be open 

If the thought of the holidays coming around stresses you out or adds to your anxiety levels—it's okay, you’re definitely not alone. The financial pressures of the holidays can quickly become overwhelming and although this is a very nostalgic time, sometimes the emotions that come with it aren’t always positive. While some people feel more connected during the holidays, the opposite is also true for others. 

When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed this holiday season, don’t take it all on by yourself. Talk to your loved ones, be open about your concerns, and be empathetic towards them. Going into the holiday season with an open and honest dialogue should help alleviate any discomfort you may have felt just going into things blind.  

Too often we have this conception of the holidays requiring gifts but the true gift is the precious time we get to spend with loved ones. 


We here at ZayZoon truly believe the holidays don’t need to be expensive but they should be fun. Staying conscious of your spending is step number one and if you’ve made it this far, you’re off to a great start. We really hope these savings tips benefit you and that the time you spend with your loved ones this year only brings you closer together. 


Chaz Somers

Chaz Somers started his professional career as a part-time social media contractor at ZayZoon and since then, has evolved into a full-time content marketing associate. Chaz’s love for branding and storytelling has led him to blog writing, clothing design and video production all within ZayZoon.