How to Avoid Paying Retail for Christmas Gifts

Does it seem cheap to search for deals on Christmas gifts? Absolutely not; it’s a frugal move, and one I gladly participate in each year.

With Christmas budgets already stretched thin, it makes a lot of sense to use a few cost-cutting strategies when checking off your Christmas list.

1. Buy online. This one is easy for me. I’d much rather purchase Christmas gifts at than stand in a line with 300 people fighting over limited quantities. Depending on where you live, you can often avoid paying sales tax, too, which can represent a sizable portion of a large purchase such as a computer.

Many brick and mortar stores such as Target and Best Buy participate in Cyber Monday (the Monday following Thanksgiving) deals at their websites where you can find deals similar to the ones that were found in stores on Black Friday.

2. Pay with cash (for larger items). It used to be widely known that if you paid for large ticket items with cash you could expect a deep discount. That’s not always a given these days, because many stores make money on their in-store financing or branded credit cards, and would be just as happy if you financed your big purchase.

Still, it’s worth having the cash on-hand and asking for a cash discount.

3. Buy next year’s Christmas gifts in January. Some gifts are timeless, and if buying the latest hot gadge isn’t particulaly important to those on your list, you might consider picking up some gifts at deep discount after the holiday season shopping rush has passed.

Note, we like to shop for Christmas decorations around this time, too!

4. Don’t shy away from floor models. Just this past weekend I scored a zebra-patterned Parsons chair that will look great in my daughter’s room.

I asked the sales associate if she had one in the back, because the floor model had a few scratches on the legs. She returned with a disappointed look – the only remaining item was the floor model. The chair was originally $79.99, marked down to $59.99. I offered them $30. The manager said they couldn’t go below $40. We settled on $35.

I used a furniture pen to cover the scratches, gave the chair’s fabric a quick wipe down with a wash cloth, and it is now as good as new. Total savings – about 55% off the full, retail price.

5. Use coupons. I rarely purchase anything online without using some sort of coupon or promotional code. Many of these codes offer free shipping, or a discount off your total purchase. There are just too many ways to save not to do a little research.

Of course, I’ve tried to make this easier for readers in recent weeks by offering a consolidated spot here at Frugal Dad for coupons and deals. I highly encourage you to check out this area when you are ready to do some online shopping.

What are a few ways you save on Christmas gifts each year? Share your tips here and at the Facebook page where I’ve just kicked off a new discussion on this topic.


  1. I am a huge fan of #3 – this works great many gift giving scenarios throughout the year. I usually load up my gift box from after C-mas sales and my budget loves it.

  2. Please consider buying at your local shops for the holidays. If you don’t need to buy mass-market consumer items that someone puts on their list but can get into buy wonderful gifts that strike you as perfect for someone as you spend an afternoon walking around, the heartfelt vibe comes through, and if you take a little time to shop you can find plenty that you can afford. I really like to support my local shops both to keep my community vibrant with shops and with employed shop owners.

  3. I always stock up on decorations, wrapping supplies, and small gifts in the after Christmas sales. For every gift I buy online, I try to buy something local, especially from church fairs, scout sales, etc. Finally, in the season of giving, consider donations made in someone’s honor. The recipient will likely be touched by the gesture, delighted to not have more “stuff,” and you get the tax write-off.

  4. I like #1 because I hate standing in line at the check-out. Besides I have saved lots of money and time by shopping online.

  5. Other January sales to grab: red paperware, decorations, gift wrap-can be used for Valentine’s day or any patriotic holiday if they are not C-mas shaped/design.
    Buy plain silver or gold gift wrap for wedding and anniversary gifts. Solid color gift wrap-use for anything,
    Very cheap candy can be incorporated into cookies and other desserts to replace choc. chips and etc.
    2 candy canes can be glued to a piece of paper in a heart shape for a clever Valentine-include a poem about how love started at Christmas. Crushed candy canes make great cookie or cake garnish.
    Upcoming wedding? christmas lights and other decor items
    Start a new family Christmas tradition of getting gift cards to be used on a family shopping trip that occurs in January. This can be a fun family outing, everyone picks exactly what they want at sale prices! Bring a camera to document the fun as you try on bargain bin reindeer antlers and the gift return chaos around you. At the end of the day gather for a nice meal to disucss/plan for the coming year which helps avoid the holiday let down.
    If you traditionally give Christmas ornaments buy them now. If you like the kind with the year on them-add that yourself or attach a bow or ?? that covers the out of date year.

  6. I do 75% of my shopping during the year as I spot things. The key is to have a list of the people you normally give gifts to, and some suggestions. Each year I update my spreadsheet of suggestions, mark off what I actually got them, and more the unused suggestions to the next year’s file. For adults, an appropriate suggestion one year is probably still valid the next. Once I’ve made the purchase I record it, and tuck the gift away in my gift closet. In the fall I review the list to see what’s still missing and focus mostly on the kids. They sometimes change their lists and interests right up to the last minute. My final stop is to use up my frequent shopper point at the drugstore to get all the stocking stuffers for free.

  7. More on #1: If you’re willing to do a little online shopping on Thanksgiving Day, several of the big box retailers will be offering their Black Friday prices a day early, online only. 🙂

  8. In the last 3 years my wife and I decided that we were no longer going to follow the crowd. We are not Americans or Canadians so we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but we celebrate Christmas.

    We get all our gifts after the Christmas break, by this time most of the stuff we want to get is discounted. The kids love it because they most of the times get what they want and understand why we do it.

    It’s now a family tradition.

  9. My mom and I always go to the Mall on Thursday evening, right before they close before Black Friday. The little known secret is that many bricks and mortar stores (not the huge ones, but most) will actually have prices up and ready for Black Friday by Thursday night. They honor those prices too. We got three work pants for my husband for the price of one, a new outfit for me at half price and a variety of other items at 40% off or greater. What we didn’t get was the truly obnoxious crowds. I guess everyone else went to bed early to get ready for Black Friday. Worked for me!