10 Smart Ways to Save Money on Christmas Shopping

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Oct 22 2018 07:40 AM | Updated as of Oct 22 2018 10:32 AM

Shoppers walk past a Christmas display at a shopping mall in Manila. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA -- Less than 100 days to Christmas and nearly all the major shopping malls in Metro Manila are already decked in holiday splendor. Just a few years ago, you won’t see any festive decorations until after All Saints’ Day, another holiday that many Filipinos respect and observe.

Payday sale events have also started to entice shoppers to start buying gifts early. Before you begin your annual holiday shopping, consider how last year went and if you learned anything. Did you spend more than you planned? Bought more gifts than you needed? Or bought less and then had to cram last-minute shopping and pay higher prices as a result? Take note of all the painful and costly lessons to make sure this year’s shopping will give you a really Merry Christmas!

Here are 10 ways you can save money while shopping for the holidays (yes, that’s possible!).

1. SET A BUDGET (AND LIVE WITH IT).

Look at the money you have on hand, and you can also add money you are sure will be coming your way. This would include any cash you saved up for the holidays and if you are working, your 13th month pay. Don’t count bonuses that may or may not be given to you. Then remember how much you spent last year and whether you ended up paying for holiday bills well into the new year. Stick to a reasonable budget that will not make you go into debt, and that includes credit card spending.

2. MAKE A LIST (AND CHECK IT TWICE).

If you still have your gift list from last year, that’s a good place to start. You can remove names and add, depending on your interactions with people this year. A good rule is not to include people you did not see in the last 12 months, or even last 6 months. You can still remember them, maybe with an electronic card or greeting but not necessarily a physical gift. Then try and see if there are people you can put into groups, so you can just give one gift instead of several personal gifts. When your list is ready, look at your total budget and assign gift prices for each.

3. CONSIDER THE GIFT OF CHOICE (AND GET IT AT A DISCOUNT).

One practical gift is to present them with shopping or dining certificates. You will find that this puts less pressure on you – instead of having to gift an aunt a blouse that will cost P1,500, a P500 shopping certificate will let her decide what to buy and add to it if needed. With dining vouchers, they can decide when to eat out and with whom. What’s more, when you buy gift certificates in bulk, some stores offer you a discount to the face value. You could be paying P900 for every P1,000 voucher, allowing you to stretch your limited budget.

4. REDEEM YOUR CREDIT CARD LOYALTY POINTS (AS A GIFT TO YOURSELF OR TO OTHERS).

It’s become a bit of a personal tradition to sweep all the rewards points I earned in my credit cards for all the spending I did in the past year to reward myself. This has allowed me to either get extra spending money thanks to electronic gift cards, or spa treatments, or a staycation at five-star hotels. So if you missed adding your name to your holiday list, do it now. You deserve a gift as much as anyone in your list. Or if you are truly selfless, you can redeem anyway and add to the gift pile you will distribute.

5. BEWARE OF PAY LATER PLANS (SO YOU DON'T WELCOME THE NEW YEAR WITH DEBT).

A pay later plan is a double edged sword. On the one hand, you can be grateful for the reprieve and the chance to shop now and meet your holiday "obligations" and postpone your worries until later. But that’s the key word – later – as the bill will still come and the last thing you want is to be paying for your holiday shopping well into March, April, May or June. You should aim for welcoming the new year with no debt from holiday spending, and that will really be a Happy New Year!

6. AVOID PERISHABLES (WHICH COULD BE A PROBLEM FOR YOU AND THE RECEIVER).

I once had this brilliant idea to give away holiday hams to bring Noche Buena cheer. Then I realized I had to deliver them all and also keep them frozen. Worse, some of my friends decided to go out of town for the holidays, so I had to keep the hams and pray they return while the ham is still edible. When I gave the ham as gifts to people who work in the office, I realized I was passing on a problem to them. Some planned to go out after work so they were unsure how to transport the ham. Others looked to find a space in the company refrigerator to keep the ham fresh. One lost her ham and I think I lost my mind after that.

7. USE STORE DELIVERY (AS LONG AS IT'S FREE OR CHEAPER).

Many stores these days offer online shopping and even better, free shipping for a minimum purchase. Try to take advantage of free delivery as much as you can – as it’s one less thing on your holiday to-do list. If it’s free or cost is low (or lower than if you arranged the delivery and got stuck in traffic), that’s one deal you should grab with both hands. Make sure you can track delivery though, and have a way of confirming that the gift reached your intended recipient.

8. GET READY TO HAGGLE (BECAUSE THIS IS THE BEST WAY TO GET BARGAINS).

#8 Get ready to haggle (because this is the best way to get bargains). If you plan to do your shopping in bazaars, you need to haggle. Never accept the first price quoted unless it is already much lower than you expected or saw in other stores. Filipino shopkeepers understand that haggling is a way of life here and very few will take it against you if you ask for a discount. If you are bulk buying, the more aggressive your haggling should be.

9. GIFT WHAT YOU WANT TO RECEIVE (NOT BECAUSE IT IS CHEAP AND YOU JUST WANT TO FINISH SHOPPING).

Shopping fatigue can happen to anyone, but know that it shows. When you get a generic or poorly planned gift, you can’t help but feel that you were not important enough to the giver. Contrast this to when you get a thoughtful gift that you like and will find useful, and that’s a gift that makes a lasting impression. While you may have saved money on the former, you lost too as that gift will likely end up in a recycle pile or tossed at the back of a closet somewhere. If you plan your shopping well, there’s no reason for you not to find a tasteful gift that’s priced within your budget.

10. HIT TWO BIRDS WITH ONE GIFT (OR THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING).

The holidays tend to bring out the best in everyone, and generosity is easily displayed through the gifts that we exchange. But how many pens, notebooks, vase, scarves, wallets do you need? One practical thing would be to consider a donation in your receiver’s name to a charity that means a great deal to them and/or to you. These gifts are almost always welcome – anything from a donation that will allow a family to enjoy a Noche Buena, a deserving child to go or stay in school, a tree to be planted and cared for in an important watershed, the list can go on and on. Who knows? Your gift may spark more interest and you will drive your family and friends to pay it forward.