Tricks for Saving $1,000 or More This Holiday Season
During the holidays, it can feel like our wallets flap open and stay that way until the New Year’s confetti has settled. There are gifts to buy, meals to prep, and unexpected expenses to cover (overnight shipping will cost how much?)
Send Gifts with Flat-Rate Shipping
SAVE: About $30 per gift (compared with regular priority shipping)
The post office’s flat-rate boxes are a great deal—they come with two-day priority shipping, tracking, and up to $50 of insurance. Mail packages by December 19 to avoid express fees.
— Brianna Firestone, founder of the School of Betty, a financial platform
Give Money Each Night of Hanukkah
SAVE: $80 per kid
Instead of gifts, we give gelt, which means “money” in Yiddish. If you give your kid $5 per night at most, you’ll spend $40, whereas a toy might cost you $15 each night. We use this experience to teach our children about being charitable—at least 10 percent of their total haul goes to a cause they choose.
— Yael Trusch, host of the podcast Jewish Latin Princess and creator of The Jewish Money Makeover, a financial course
Switch to LEDs
SAVE: About $50 (if you decorate one tree inside and four outside) LED holiday lights last longer than incandescent lights, and they use 70 percent less electricity. It only costs 27 cents to light a six-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days with LEDs. Incandescent bulbs would total $10.
— Mark Dawson, chief operating officer of Mister Sparky, a national electrician service
Trim Your Tree Spending
A six-foot quick-sprouting tree variety, like Monterey pine or cypress, could cost nearly 50 percent less than a longer-to-mature fir. To keep the tree fresh, have the trunk trimmed before you take it home, and give the tree one quart of water for every inch of the trunk’s diameter.
— Keith Garlock, Co-owner of Garlock Christmas Tree Farm in Sebastopol, California
Leverage Your Credit Card for Driving Perks
SAVE: $50 a day on insurance
Before you book a car with a rental agency, see if your credit card offers any benefits. Chase’s Sapphire and Capital One’s Venture cards both provide roadside assistance and even collision insurance—all you have to do is book with the card and waive the insurance the agency offers.
— Sara Rathner, travel and credit card expert at NerdWallet
Buy Discounted Gift Cards
SAVE: $5 per card
Warehouse stores such as BJ’s and Sam’s Club often sell lower-priced gift cards to places like Starbucks and L.L.Bean. At press time, a two-pack of $25 cards to Build-A-Bear was selling for $40 at BJ’s. Gift these cards or use them to purchase presents.
— Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with Dealnews.com
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Fake a Salon Blowout at Home
SAVE: $45 (approximate cost of the service) per blowout after first use
I recommend Revlon’s One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer ($60; ulta.com) to my clients when they can’t make it in. Start with freshly washed and conditioned hair and squeeze out as much water as possible. Spritz on a heat protectant, then wrap hair around the dryer and pull downward.
— Linh Nguyen, hairstylist in New York City
Tweak the Thermostat
SAVE: $90 in November and December
You probably don’t need the heat so high, especially if you have family congregating or you’re running the oven a lot. Turning it down just five degrees could save you as much as $45 per month. If you can, keep your home at 68 degrees, a cost-effective temperature in winter.
— Mark Dawson
Hack a Hanukkah Treat
SAVE: $140 (for 36 doughnuts)
Instead of splurging on sufganiyot, traditional jelly doughnuts, fry dinner rolls in oil and inject them with your favorite filling, like raspberry jam. A bag of 36 rolls costs about $4, whereas doughnuts from a kosher bakery can be about $4 each.
— Yael Trusch
Make Dips Your New Appetizer
I whip up a big batch of baked spinach and artichoke dip and serve it with crackers and veggies. For 20 people, that’ll cost under $20, so it’s a lot cheaper than appetizers like mini quiche and cocktail shrimp, which can be 50 cents to a dollar per piece.
— Claire Tansey, author of Dinner, Uncomplicated
Cut Parking Costs
SAVE: About $20 every time
I drive an SUV, so finding street parking can be tricky, and garages charge hefty fees. I love the SpotHero app (free; iOS and Android), which lets you book and pay for spaces in advance. It’s available in 300 cities. When I’ve parked in New York City, I’ve paid as little as $15 for a spot that might have cost me $80.
— Bola Sokunbi, founder of Clever Girl Finance, a women’s financial Platform
Go Digital with Holiday Cards…
SAVE: About $100 (approximate cost of 50 higher-quality photo cards)
For a fun, interactive, and free card, send a family video. Ask each family member to share their favorite holiday memory or something they’re grateful for, then edit the footage in an app like iMovie or Videoshop. Share your digital card online, or text or email it to family members.
— Trina Small, lifestyle blogger at HeyTrina.com
…Or Opt for a Postcard and Be Your Own Photographer
SAVE: About $35 (for 50 stamped postcards)
If you’d still like to send holiday cards, consider photo postcards, which cost less than photo greeting cards. And instead of shelling out for a professional photographer, snap holiday pics in your backyard, using a smartphone (with a camera self-timer) and tripod. Find a simple backdrop, and set up with the light behind the camera—the best light to shoot in is right before sunset.
— Kelle Hampton, lifestyle blogger at KelleHampton.com
Grab Gifts on Location
SAVE: $15 per gift
If you’ll be traveling for the holidays, save on shipping costs by shopping online at stores that offer curbside pickup at your destination.
— Julie Ramhold
Dress Up Your Home with Tree Trimmings
No need to buy pricey decorations. Ask your local tree lot for cuttings. Display them in a big vase, use them to decorate your mantel, or add them to wreaths and garlands.
— Meg Nordmann, author of Have Yourself a Minimalist Christmas
Get Cheaper Gas
SAVE: About 30 cents per gallon
When I take road trips to visit family, I use the GasBuddy app (free; iOS and Android), which helps me find the best price on gas along my route.
— Benet Wilson, credit cards editor at ThePointsGuy.com
Reduce Wine Costs
SAVE: $40 to $100 per bottle
Wine from famous regions can be expensive because the grapes come from one specific parcel of land. A little-known fact is that many winemakers also produce a second label, which blends grapes from their vineyards into wines that are just as delicious and representative of the area. Look for labels that refer to the whole region, like “Sonoma County Red,” to save money while still taking advantage of the producers’ expertise and quality.
— TJ Douglas, owner of the Urban Grape, a wine store in Boston
Don’t Rush to Buy a Tree
SAVE: $15 or more
The costliest day to buy a tree is Cyber Monday, with the average price at $84, according to a survey from Square, a business financial service. Prices generally spike again the first two weekends of December. The closer you get to Christmas, the cheaper trees will be.
— Tim O’Connor, executive director of The National Christmas Tree Association
Skip Expensive Cuts of Meat
SAVE: $48 (for an eight-pound cut)
Instead of prime rib, I prefer chuck roast, which is just as flavorful and easier to cook in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. Plus, it’s way more affordable, coming in at around $6 per pound, compared with about $12 for prime rib.
— Palak Patel, chef at The Institute of Culinary Education
Score a Better Rate on a Car Rental
SAVE: About $50
If you’re taking a short trip and only need to rent a car for a few hours, consider an option like Getaround, which offers hourly rentals so you don’t have to pay a day rate. Best of all, insurance is included. You just unlock a car from your phone and go.
— Andrea Woroch, family finance expert at AndreaWoroch.com