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Holiday Shopping Swaps That Will Save You Money This Season

Rebecca Cohen  |  December 10, 2019

Spending too much every winter? Us, too. Try some of our favorite shopping swaps that will save you enough money to buy yourself a gift at the end of it all. 

Is holiday spending a valid reason to pile onto your credit card debt? More than half of Americans who already have a balance think so, according to a recent poll. But even though the holiday season is arguably the priciest time of year, there’s no reason you have to resign yourself to carry extra debt into 2020. 

Keep your credit card balance at a comfortable level — and get gifts everyone loves — by employing a few of these holiday shopping swaps. 

Swap cheap clothing for high-quality (and vice-versa for kids).

Although you may spend more upfront, it’s worth it to splurge on classic clothing items that can transition through seasons, says Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert at Paying more for a good pair of black boots instead of a lesser quality pair, for example, is actually more economical in the long run because you won’t have to replace them so frequently. Plus, the cost-per-wear is lower, she says. 

Children’s clothing is the exception: The pricier brand names aren’t worth it when it comes to the under-13 set. There’s no reason to pay top dollar for something that will get bedraggled after one week of running around at recess. Woroch recommends going to stores like Walmart for your kids’ clothing gifts where you can get great, low-priced items that won’t bring you to tears if an outfit gets trashed at the playground.

Switch up your gift exchange tradition.

Trae Bodge, Smart Shopping Expert at, suggests going the Secret Santa route for this year’s gift exchange if you have a large family. Have everyone pull a name from a hat and focus on buying something for one instead of everyone, says Bodge. Pick a price point and enjoy the giving and saving. Another approach for large families is to agree to buy gifts only for the kids. Or have everyone chip in to purchase one larger item for the older members of the family.

Buy in bulk instead of bespoke.

If you’ve got a long list of people on your gift list, head to the nearest wholesale store, Bodge says. You can save a bundle by breaking up the giant bags of individually wrapped candies, trays of mini succulents or family sets of holiday PJs into smaller gift baskets for all. 

Give an experience instead of an item.

Instead of individual gifts, treat the fam to a holiday vacation, or if that’s not an option for you, a day-long special outing. The memories you make on your adventure will last a lifetime, and don’t have to cost a lot of money. If you venture farther afield, save money by renting a condo instead of a hotel room so you can cook at “home” and save even more. (Traveling this season? Here are more ways to save money on holiday travel.)

Snag Sale Prices Automatically and Get Retroactive Discounts.

Black Friday may be over, but the sales will continue all month long. Woroch recommends monitoring the brands you like closely (since prices are always changing) and using money saving apps and browser extensions like Honey that automatically applies online discounts to your shopping cart. You can add items to your list and enable sale notifications. And if the price drops on an item you already bought, the app will send an alert so you can request a price adjustment to your order, she says. 

Choose lasting electronics over off-brand ones.

Shopping for a smartphone? Woroch recommends investing in longevity by sticking with name-brand electronics. The higher-quality gadget won’t break or malfunction as quickly as its lower-price counterpart. But before you sign up for a two-year (or longer) commitment, read some reviews so you know what’s covered in your plan. 

Play Your Rewards Cards Right.

Strategize which credit card you use for your purchases to get the most miles, points or cash back when you spend. For example, Woroch likes the Capital One Walmart Rewards MasterCard that offers 5% back for Walmart purchases, 2% back on travel and restaurants, and 1% back on everything else. 

Make a List, Check it Twice, and Stick To It

When you’re already spending so much this season, there is no room for personal shopping sprees and no time for sales FOMO. Remember, buying a discounted item isn’t saving you any money if you don’t need it or wouldn’t have bought it anyway. Stick to the gifts you planned to buy this holiday season and save the splurging for 2020. 

For more holiday saving tips, check out:

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