How to Shop Smart—and Save!—This Holiday Season




By Nicole Pelletiere

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…meaning it can sometimes be tough to keep your holiday cheer from taking over your holiday gift budget. “New moms, especially, may find themselves tempted to spend beyond their budget on gifts, apparel, and goodies for their kids to make the holidays more exciting,” says consumer savings expert, Andrea Woroch. Here’s Woroch’s top tips to avoid seasonal spending traps and shop smart during the holidays.

Make a list—and stick to it.

When you spot a cute little Santa-inspired baby bib, you might be tempted to deviate from your holiday gift list, and that’s exactly what retailers are hoping for. The best way to stick to your budget and avoid those unnecessary impulse buys?   Make a list. The regular old paper kind works just fine, but we love the Holiday Gift List app ($1.99) to stay on top of your gift list and track your post-purchase spending by creating budgets for each person and viewing what you’ve spent on their gift.

Discover digital coupons.

Follow your favorite stores and brands on Twitter or Facebook for instant updates on special promotions and exclusive coupons. Find even more savings in the palm of your hand with free mobile apps like CouponSherpa (an instant price comparison app) and RedLaser (a barcode scanner app). Being social while shopping in store helps, too—ask store associates if there are any available coupons or what other upcoming sales to look out for.

Swap for like-new gifts.

On a super-tight budget this season? Sites like thredUp.comSwap.com and BookMooch[MT1] .com make swapping toys, clothes, electronics, [MT2] books, and more with other families a breeze. In-person holiday swaps are a fun, inexpensive way to celebrate the season, too: Consider organizing an event with members of your neighborhood, mom group, or house of worship.

Have extra gifts on hand.

The biggest blow to your budget will be running out for a last minute gift (like when your friend says she’s stopping by with a gift for your toddler—but you don’t have anything for her kid!) and paying a premium price for convenience. That’s why it’s smart to have a few extra generic gifts stashed away for surprises. When you spot a great sale on candles, body lotion, or kids books, buy a few extra. If you don’t end up giving them away during the holidays, they’ll make good gifts throughout the year.

Review return and exchange policies.

Beware of store policies for returns and exchanges, especially for sale items. They’re strict at some retailers, particularly during the holidays. Be extra sure to find out about clearance items before you check out, which could be final sale.

Save on shipping.

Shopping online’s a major time-saver for new moms. Even better, many retailers offer free shipping, free return shipping, or free in-store pick up during the holidays. For retailers that charge for shipping: Find free shipping codes and coupons FreeShipping.org, and mark your calendar for Free Shipping Day on Monday December 17th, when over 2,000 online retailers will offer free shipping with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.