It's no surprise that most of us will be thinking very hard before heading to the mall to shop for gifts this season. Although the economy is looking pretty grim, don't say "bah humbug!" just yet. We've found ten ways you can give gifts to your loved ones without breaking the bank. Best-selling author of "How To Be A Budget Fashionista" (Ballentine) and top blogger (thebudgetfashionista.com) Kathryn Finney gives us the 411 on how we can all save big this holiday season. "People have to rethink what it means to give. It doesn't have to involve spending money," says Finney. Read on to find out how to make regifting chic, why paper is always better than plastic, and how being green can actually help the environment and your savings account.
Show Me the Money
Finney warns that credit cards, even debit cards, can give a false sense of buying power. She suggests only taking cash when shopping. "Put all the money you plan to spend in an envelope, and once that envelope is empty, you have no more to spend. It forces you to manage your money," says Finney.
Make Your Plastic Work for You
If you must use a credit or debit card, make sure your purchase works for you more than once. Finney adds, "If you do have to use a card, make sure it is one you're getting some kind of rewards or [airline] miles for."
The Elephant in the Room
Consider a white elephant gift exchange with a select group of loved ones this year. "Say your mother likes your new coffeemaker but you know you'll never use it. Wrap it up and give it to her as a gift," suggests Finney. Not only will you save money on gifts, but you'll help rid your house of clutter.
Get to Clicking
Finney swears by the Web site retailmenot.com for coupons on everything from shoes to groceries. Another tip is to simply type the name of a store or brand with the words "coupon" or "discount" into a search engine for bargains galore.
Second Time Around
"Vintage has become cool now," says Finney. Not only is it green to give a vintage item as a gift, but it also shows that you put thought into the gift. Since vintage doesn't necessarily mean inexpensive, shop around at trusted Goodwill, Salvation Army or other secondhand stores.
Don't Believe the Hype
Finney warns that there will be very few "true" one-day sales this year. Black Friday and even Cyber Monday won't yield great deals this year, so she strongly suggests waiting as close to Christmas Day (or after) as possible, since this is when retailers will really want to unload their goods to meet their goals.
Used Can Be Good
Finney says that although the hot item to have this year is the iPhone, which isn't necessarily budget-friendly, it's still possible to purchase a used one in excellent condition under a respectable warranty. "I bought my husband a refurbished iPod from Apple and he didn't know the difference," says Finney. Research your favorite electronics manufacturer online to find out what discount refurbished items they offer.
Never Take No for an Answer
Remember you typically have the authority to negotiate prices in large retail stores that sell big-ticket items. This is important to keep in mind before purchasing that plasma television. Just be sure to comparison shop beforehand so you can negotiate intelligently, warns Finney.
Host a Spa Day or Get Domestic
For little ones, why not sponsor a spa day or do their mani, pedi and facial at home. They'll feel grown-up, you'll save some cash, and both of you have spent quality time together. Also consider baking cookies or making holiday ornaments for next year. "Make a whole fun day out of it," says Finney.
Wait Until the Last Minute
If you can afford to wait, the huge deals will be after Christmas, according to Finney. "I'm actually planning to wrap a picture of the gifts I intend to buy and say, ‘Here's what you're going to get tomorrow.' It sounds cheesy, but in today's economy people will understand."
How are you planning to save money this holiday?