Santa’s on a Budget Too. Here Are 4 Ways to Save Money on Gifts for Kids

A young boy happily hugs a present while his smiling parents watch.
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Kids don’t care about your holiday budget.

They just expect you — or rather, Santa — to create Christmas magic and bring them the many items on their wishlists. That’s why so many parents end up overspending around this time of year.

According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend an average of $637.67 on holiday gifts this year, most of which will be for their families.

4 Tips for Saving Money on Christmas Gifts

Families can keep their spending down by shopping smart and saving strategically. We asked our Penny Hoarder Facebook community group members how they save on Christmas presents for their kids. Here are some of the tips and tricks they shared.

1. Buy Online

A few parents said they reduced their holiday stress by shopping online to find deals from the comfort of their home computers or smartphones.

“EBay is a godsend for those pricy things like laptops and games,” Torrey Anderson said. “I find auction items that are ending soon with low bids and jump in with only a few seconds left. I’ve managed to get some really good deals. EBay also has a ‘make offer’ option on some sales. If you find items that are close to ending without any bids, the seller is usually open to offers.”

Maria Stella Martinez Vega said she bought everything online so she could easily compare prices and hunt for better deals.

“[Stores] can be overwhelming, [especially] in this season,” she said. “Plus, you get free shipping on a lot of products, and you save gas, too.”

2. Try the Four-Gift Rule

Red Christmas candles sit atop wood blocks with stylized numbers on them.
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Another way to save money during the holidays is to limit your spending to only a few gifts. The four-gift rule helps parents narrow down their spending. The challenge is to get something your kids want, something they need, something they’ll wear and something they’ll read — that’s it.

Gwen Delarm follows the four-gift rule — plus, she buys one extra gift to give from Santa. She said sticking to that approach keeps shopping manageable.

Emmaline Gravel said she also chose to go with the four-gift method this year. She put a little money aside from each paycheck to buy gifts and shopped on eBay to find bargains.

Maria Blum uses even more spending restraint, buying “one little present for each child.”

3. Save Money Using Apps and Websites

Money-saving apps and websites helped several parents pad their holiday shopping funds.

Crystal Kolb said she uses the microinvesting apps Stash and Acorns to automate her savings throughout the year, and then she uses the stored-up funds for Christmas shopping.

Nicole Lovelace said she used the saving platform Digit this year to gradually save money for Christmas.

Brenda Foster Perego said last holiday season she made over $800 in about six weeks using the cash-back app Dosh. She also uses cash-back site Ebates to save money throughout the year.

Jessica DiCarlo Maloy said a variety of apps have helped her save over $3,000 since February. Swagbucks, a survey and rewards website, is her biggest moneymaker.

“I print coupons, watch videos, take surveys and purchase gift cards,” she said. “So far, I’ve made over $1,400.”

Maloy also uses Ebates to get rewards while shopping online. She said she’ll stack her rewards by buying gift cards through Swagbucks and then using those gift cards to shop online with Ebates.

Maloy also will scan her grocery receipts to get rebates through Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, Checkout 51, CoinOut, Receipt Hog and SavingStar. And those aren’t even all the apps she’s used to make money.

4. Shop for Deals Throughout the Year

A woman with shopping bags walks outside.
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Getting an early start on holiday shopping definitely has its advantages. Some parents say they shop year-round and set gifts aside to give away when Christmas rolls around.

One approach parents take is to find gifts at places that always keep prices low. Olivia Fox said she saves by finding items at yard sales and thrift stores. Ashley Montgomery said she shops at Dollar Tree or Five Below to get gifts at low prices.

Other parents scan the sales racks throughout the year to find Christmas gifts at a good discount. Black Friday isn’t the only time to find a good sale.

“We buy Halloween costumes when they are 90% off at Target like four days after Halloween and give them as Christmas presents,” Christopher Chiakulas said. “Kids get a fun costume to dress up and play in [such as Iron Man or Spider-Man] for, like, $3.”

The department store Kohl’s often gives shoppers credit — Kohl’s Cash — to redeem at the store at a later date if they spend over a certain price threshold. Cheryl McKenzie Brumbaugh said she buys her Christmas gifts by using Kohl’s Cash and checking for sales throughout the year.

Tricia Lichty said she shopped for winter gear for her kids at the end of the season last year.

“Hat-and-glove sets are now $5 to $8,” she said. “Last year, I paid $1.”

Lichty said she also checks the clearance section of stores for good deals. She bought a Descendants doll for $8 on clearance that was regularly $34.99.

Roberta Wade’s children are now grown, but she said that when they were younger, she’d hit up after-Christmas sales to buy gifts for the following year.

“By Thanksgiving, everything was purchased, wrapped and stashed in my closet,” she said.

Wade said she was able to enjoy the month of December without the stress of buying gifts. She could instead focus on decorating, parties, baking and spending time with family and friends.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.