Holiday shopping in December may bring on some panic. But this year, procrastinators don’t have to stress — we have all the deets and Christmas shopping hacks you need for last-minute gift success.
Even once Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are behind us, there’s still time to score deals on gifts and get them before Christmas. From holiday price match policies to free shipping on last-minute purchases, use these holiday shopping tips to hack the holidays and save on all your gifts.
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1. Expect that desperate retailers will drop their prices close to Christmas.
Sometimes retailers overestimate how much inventory they’ll need for the holiday shopping season. And by the time December hits, they still have truckloads of items to sell before Christmas.
When this happens, you’ll see some of the lowest prices all season in the first three weeks of December — lower than some of the best Black Friday deals that dropped in November.
For example, last year on Dec. 12, Target dropped this Little Tikes Easy Store 3-Foot Trampoline down to its lowest price of the year at just $37.29 (reg. $59.99). And Amazon dropped prices on the Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Gen to $199 on Dec. 6. We only saw a price this low from Amazon during early Black Friday sales that year, and that offer ended quickly. So it can sometimes pay to wait for a last-minute sale.
2. Shop online on Dec. 14 to get free shipping by Christmas.
Free Shipping Day was MADE for procrastinators with incomplete holiday shopping lists. On National Free Shipping Day (Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023), hundreds of online retailers offer deep discounts and promo codes to lure in last-minute shoppers who need gifts delivered by Dec. 24.
If you’re looking to avoid shipping fees (or worse, those pesky express shipping fees), remember this holiday shopping tip: do your shopping on Free Shipping Day. Here are a few of our favorite stores who usually participate in Free Shipping Day:
- American Eagle Outfitters
- Banana Republic
- Best Buy
- Charlotte Russe
- Coldwater Creek
TIP: Beware of retailers who say they’re participating in Free Shipping Day but don’t actually offer free shipping. Some retailers like to hop on the bandwagon just to benefit from the promo but still have a minimum spend you need to hit for free shipping. The true participants will offer free shipping with no minimums.
3. Take advantage of holiday shopping price match policies.
It pays to get familiar with stores’ price match policies, especially during the holiday season.
The Target Price Match policy promises you the lowest price on purchases within 14 days. But the policy gets a little more lenient during the holiday shopping season. The Target Holiday Price Match policy covers your purchases from Oct. 22 – Dec. 24, 2023, so if anything you buy during that period goes on sale before Christmas Eve, you’re guaranteed the lower price. Just show your receipt to customer service or call 1 (800) 591-3869 for online price matching.
Target isn’t the only retailer willing to price-match your holiday shopping, though. JCPenney, Best Buy, and Nordstrom will all match their own prices, too.
Related: Take a peek at our full list of stores that match their own online prices.
4. Don’t forget to come back and redeem your holiday shopping bonus cash offers.
Many stores throw out extra bonuses for Black Friday to reel you in, but you typically can’t redeem the bonus offers until the month of December. Why? Because most people finish their holiday shopping early and don’t have a reason to come back in December. But for you, procrastination pays off (at least this time).
After you make your Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases, save your receipts. That’s where some retailers will print coupons and bonus offers. Or staple physical bonus coupons to your receipts so you don’t forget to use them in December. Also, dig through your shopping bags — some retailers like Old Navy just kind of shove their store bucks down inside there.
If you shop online, search your email inbox or trash folder to find perks from purchases you may have missed.
Here are some truly awesome bonus cash offers we’ve seen for the holidays:
- JCPenney: Earn $10 in JCP Rewards for every $50 spent
- Kohl’s: $15 Kohl’s Cash for every $50 spent (in stores and online)
- Old Navy: Earn $10 Super Cash for every $25 spent
- Rite Aid: Spend $25 – $50 on select gift cards, get $5 – $8 in BonusCash
- Victoria’s Secret: Get a $25 Holiday Reward Card on purchases of $20 or more
5. Most in-store deals are also available online.
Pre-pandemic, many of the best holiday shopping deals were in stores only. But now, you’ll find a lot of the same deals online. So if stores like Kohl’s, Target, Walmart, Macy’s, or JCPenney are on your list (and they should be!), just shop online. Unless a promo specifically says “online only” or “in stores only,” it’s safe to assume you’re getting the same deals.
You’ll have to go into the store for deals at drugstores and most home improvement stores, though. But we’ve come a long way in the world of holiday shopping.
6. If you’re holiday shopping online, clear your cookies and go incognito to avoid markups.
To avoid any extra costs, clear your browser cookies and open a new incognito window (CMD + SHIFT + N on a Mac) to do your shopping. The retailer will think you’re a first-time visitor and may offer you better prices. This is one of my favorite Christmas shopping tips!
7. Sign up for UPS My Choice and Amazon Texts to avoid stolen packages.
If you sign up for Amazon Updates, you’ll get texts any time your Amazon package leaves the warehouse — and as soon as it gets delivered.
Or sign up for UPS My Choice, a free service that sends you updates and lets you manage your deliveries. They’ll alert you when a UPS delivery is on its way, and you’ll get to set “leave at” instructions for the delivery person. My Choice also lets you get your packages delivered at a pickup location versus a home address.
8. Some stores will price-match Amazon to win over holiday shoppers.
Amazon is like the crown jewel of holiday shopping. But toward the end of the season, two-day or even three-day delivery isn’t always guaranteed. Amazon deliveries are skyrocketing at this time, so holiday shipping deadlines can come and go. Luckily, you can still get Amazon prices at other stores.
It’s true, some of Amazon’s biggest competitors will match Amazon’s lower prices. You can use the Amazon mobile shopping app to compare prices as you shop in store.
In most cases, all you have to do is show the Amazon listing to the cashier when you check out. If you’re holiday shopping online, call customer service to request the price match.
These are some of our favorite stores that price match Amazon:
- Dick’s Sporting Goods
- Office Depot / Office Max
- Staples (in-store only)
9. Shop holiday clearance sales after Christmas for up to 90% off.
After-Christmas shopping is one of the best ways to save, especially on holiday decor and winter apparel. While everyone else puts Christmas away for the next 365 days, you can grab some stellar deals to set you up for next year.
These are a few of the best after-Christmas sales to look out for, starting as early as Dec. 26:
- Bath & Body Works: Semi-Annual Sale, 75% off
- Hobby Lobby: 75% – 90% off Holiday Decor and Crafts
- Home Depot: Up to 50% off Artificial Christmas Trees
- Kohl’s: At least 70% off Clearance and 50% off Holiday Storage
- Macy’s: 50% – 75% off Beauty Sets, Tableware, Ornaments, and More
- Target: 70% – 90% off Holiday Decor
- Walmart: Up to 90% off Toy Clearance
Related: See our full list of the best after-Christmas clearance sales.
10. Double-check those return policies before you shop — some are better than others.
Flexible holiday returns are EVERYTHING when it comes to Christmas shopping. Having to return a holiday purchase is just part of the game, but some stores make it easier than others.
The Bath & Body Works return policy is one of the best out there. You can return items you’ve already used at any time and get a full refund with a receipt. They’ll even let you exchange things like lotion or candles that are half used for a different scent without a receipt.
Stores with flexible return policies don’t always promote how great they are. But these are a few stores with return policies we love:
- Best Buy
- Home Depot
Where do you plan to finish your Christmas shopping this year? Let us know in the comments below!