It’s so easy to splurge on presents when they’re for your loved ones (and not for yourself). And it seems like all of us have the same problem. Last year, American households spent an average of $997.73 on gifts and holiday items — and we’re likely to spend at least 10 percent more this year. But nothing is as upsetting as discovering that you could have gotten the same gifts for less. Here, try these clever money-saving tips for holiday gifts, as told by bargain specialists and our readers.
Make a personalized mug for $5.
“In my experience, the gift that always gets the best response is a photo mug. It’s so easy to go through social media and save photos, then put them on a mug or photo calendars. Sam’s Club has the best price on mugs — last year I spent just $4.86 each, and shipping is free. Photo mugs elsewhere cost twice that. Just head to SamsClub.com and upload a photo of a special time you’ve shared with your loved one. In a few clicks you’re done. You’re basically giving the gift of cherished memories, which are priceless!”
—Jamie Clark, mom of four, Denver
Create a game-night pack for $20.
“You can save money on gifts for loved ones by giving a group gift rather than individual presents. For example, hit stores like Five Below, where most items cost less than $5, to pick up games like Family Feud and Pictionary, which cost $15 or more at Walmart, and put them together in a game night pack. Or visit Dollar General or Big Lots and grab microwave popcorn, soda, and candy for a movie night snack bundle. (Use a Dollar General coupon like $5 off a $25 purchase or a 20 percent off coupon from Big Lots to save even more.) Wrap the items with cellophane, tie on a bow, and you’ve got a gift for four people for $20!”
—Sara Skirboll, shopping expert at RetailMeNot.com
Find great sports gear for $10 to $20.
“Visit used sporting goods consignment shops and stores like Play It Again Sports. Not only can you can find great prices on sports equipment like ice skates for just $20, which usually cost $50 new, you can also find like-new jerseys for professional sports teams for as little as $10! Be sure to sign up for their loyalty program — simply give them your phone number and they send you 15 percent off coupons via text.”
—Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com
Pick up pet gifts at discount stores.
“Whether shopping for a pet lover or for your own furry pal, head to Marshall’s or T.J. Maxx. Both have expanded their pet departments and offer all sorts of items for a lot less than other retail outlets. For example, an Outward Hound Slo Bowl feeder sells for just $6 compared to $12 on Amazon, and a Brentwood Originals pet mat is $35. Similar dog beds cost $80 at pet stores!”
—Trae Bodge, shopping expert at TraeBodge.com
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.