You’ve been around the block — you know that once school starts, it’s basically Christmas Eve.

The holidays creep up so fast that your Elf on a Shelf is getting a headache just thinking about it.

So this year, how about being totally prepared — possibly loaded with money for holiday gifts that you earned starting right now?!

 

1. Sign up for Paribus and get money back when there’s a price drop.

Paribus has a secret weapon — when you sign up, you’ll be notified if a store owes you a refund — effortlessly!

This means when you buy something online and it goes on sale within the price adjustment period for its store, Paribus will request the difference and send it straight to your bank account or provide you with instructions on how to get your refund. Plus, it’s totally free.

Think of the money for holiday expenses you could save if you sign up for Paribus right now and set your savings aside until Christmas.

Paribus compensates us when you sign up for Paribus using the links we provided.

 

2. Join free store loyalty programs at the places you know you’ll shop.

Being loyal to certain stores can pay off as long as you know each store’s hacks.

The biggest hack is to sign up for free cash-back loyalty programs, rack up the savings, and then use the rewards you earn to buy Christmas presents.

Most store programs offer points per dollar you spend and when you reach a certain threshold (like 100 points), you’ll get a reward coupon you can spend like cash in the store (like $5.00).

Here are a few stores to start with:

  • Gap: BRIGHT Rewards is Gap’s new loyalty program. You’ll get 2% cash back on every purchase you make. It’s free, sign-up is painless, and if you’re a Gap shopper, it’s a must-have. Plus, rumor has it that the program will be expanded to Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta and Hill City by the end of the year.
  • Kohl’s: Join Kohl’s Yes2You Rewards and you’ll get 5% cash back on every purchase you make. Plus, you’ll be able to earn Kohl’s Cash to spend in the store.
  • DICK’S Sporting Goods: Scorecard Rewards offers you 3.3% cash back on every purchase you make.
  • Ulta: Ultamate Rewards members get 3% cash back on every purchase made. Ulta’s loyalty program is tiered, so the more points you save, the more value you get. For example, you can get a $3.00 reward when you earn 100 points (3% cash back), but if you wait until you have 2,000 points to cash them in, you’ll earn $125.00 (6.3% cash back).
  • JCPenney: With JCPenney Rewards you can earn 2.5% cash back.

 

3. Use KCL Deal Alerts starting right now to get the best deals possible.

Already have a rough idea of what’s on your holiday shopping list this year?

You don’t need to have the entire list made in order to save on a few items you know you’ll want. Just set a deal alert inside the KCL app and select which item you want to receive deals for — like vacuum cleaners, Apple products, Instant Pots and more.

Not only could you possibly find a deal well in advance of the holiday shopping season, but you can also keep an eye on current deals in order to watch prices so you know what’s a good price for your items come November.

Knowledge is power when it comes to shopping, so get yourself deal-literate, starting now.

 

4. Shop right now if you see a stock-up price.

A general rule of thumb for Christmas gifts is to pull the trigger when you see at least 50% off.

Some items will drop into the range of up to 80% off during Black Friday, but if you see anything on your list for half off, it’s safe to buy.

Bookmark KCL’s Black Friday Deals page so you’re ready when the big deals start pouring in mid-November.

Also, consider looking through a few of last year’s deals on the page to see what types of sales you can expect this year.

 

 

5. Buy art supplies for stocking stuffers during Back-to-School sales.

Speaking of stock-up prices, now is the time to buy any art supplies you want to give as Christmas gifts, because everything is cheaper, thanks to back-to-school clearance sales.

Use KCL’s Back-to-School Stock-Up Price List to make sure you’re getting a good deal on everything from markers to watercolors.

 

6. About a month before you start shopping, load up on discounted gift cards to stores you know you’ll shop.

You can do this now if you want to, but the longer you hold on to a discounted gift card, the more you risk running into problems using it, because some of them are only guaranteed to work for a certain amount of time.

To be certain that the funds will be there when you go shopping, I’d wait until about a month before you plan to shop. The benefit of buying up discounted gift cards before you need them is that you may be able to get more than you would if you waited until you’re shopping.

Visit Raise, Gift Card Granny and Cardpool for up to 15% savings. You can use these on top of coupons at stores — how cool would it be to use these as money for all of your holiday purchases?

Be sure to check out all the gift card hacks you basically cannot live without.

 

7. Download a budgeting app like YNAB if you haven’t already!

Sure, it’ll cost you $7.00 per month to sign up for You Need a Budget (YNAB), but it could save you up to $6,000 per year.

When you use YNAB, you’ll set categories and save monthly for expenses that only happen once a year (like Christmas). So by the time holiday spending arrives, you’ve got your cash stash and you’re committed to sticking to it since you’ve been squirreling money away for months.

I use YNAB personally, and it makes it so I’m never surprised by Christmas — because, let’s be honest — we live in denial that it’s coming until it’s here — unless we budget for it!

 

8. Make your holiday shopping list using Canopy.

Same logic applies here as we used for budgeting.

When you create a holiday shopping list, it’ll cut down on those last-minute (expensive!) impulse buys you make out of guilt. (Oh snap! Your coworker bought you a present and they weren’t on your shopping list.)

Use Canopy to make your shopping list — even if you don’t know what your people want. Canopy curates Amazon, so you can shop by category to find the perfect gift for everyone.

For example, shop “for her” or “for the technical” on Canopy in order to find the perfect Christmas gift.

 

9. Start keeping an eye on CamelCamelCamel so you know you’re getting a good deal on Amazon.

Did you know Amazon’s prices fluctuate? Good thing CamelCamelCamel is dedicated to showing you behind Amazon’s curtain.

You can follow a certain item for months in advance to see what the price dips and spikes are like. Or you can look back through previous months to see how the price changed over time.

This information will help you know when it’s a good time to buy your item so you can save on holiday spending!

 

 

10. Sign up for Rakuten and Ibotta and save your cash-back earnings to spend on Christmas gifts.

Oh hi there, quick cash for the holidays.

Remember Ebates? It’s now Rakuten. Earn up to 40% cash back when you initiate your online purchase through the Rakuten shopping portal.

And be sure to sign up for Ibotta too! You can redeem Ibotta offers on grocery items by snapping a pic of your receipt and submitting it. Or you can earn a percentage back from any online shopping you do.

Set aside all cash-back earnings from these two apps to spend on Christmas. You’ll have money for holiday gifts without even touching money from your regular paycheck!

Learn more about how Ibotta works.

 

11. Make your holiday cards using greeting card promotions from Snapfish, Shutterfly and VistaPrint.

Every fall these three photo print companies offer some type of promotion for free or cheap greeting cards.

The strategy is to avoid being picky about your cards and be willing to make different styles of cards in order to use discounts from all three websites.

When you see at least 60% savings on cards, that’s the time to pounce. If you see a deal for free cards, even better!

Plus did you know there are actually really cool things you can do with your leftover Christmas cards?

 

12. Stock up on Halloween candy clearance and use it for holiday baking or stocking stuffers.

A week after Halloween, visit drugstores like Rite Aid or Walgreens for up to 90% off candy like M&M’s, Nerds and Laffy Taffy.

Keep your eyes peeled especially for Halloween-themed chocolate that you can break up and put into cookies or other Christmas treats.

Remember, if you wrap and freeze chocolate, it keeps for up to a year.

Here’s your complete guide to holiday clearance schedules so you can save after Halloween, Christmas, Easter and more.

 

 

13. Use Acorns to trick yourself into saving money.

Acorns will round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and set it aside for you.

If you’re the type of person who needs a little help saving money, Acorns might be for you.

You can set it and forget it so every purchase you make will be rounded up, and you can use the money Acorns sets aside for you when it’s time to go Christmas shopping.

After all, will you really miss the extra $0.30 that Acorns rounded up when you bought that Pumpkin Spice Latte?

 

Resources and Links Mentioned

Paribus

KCL Store Hacks

Gap’s BRIGHT Rewards

Kohl’s Yes2You Rewards

DICK’S Sporting Goods Scorecard Rewards

ULTA’s Ultamate Rewards

JCPenney Rewards

KCL Deal Alerts

Vacuum Deals

Apple Deals

Instant Pot Deals

KCL app

YNAB

Canopy

CamelCamelCamel

KCL’s Black Friday Deals Page

KCL’s Back-to-School Stock-Up Price List

Rakuten

Ibotta

How Does Ibotta Work: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Snapfish

Shutterfly

VistaPrint

20 Amazing and Unexpected Uses for Christmas Cards After the Holidays

Your Complete Guide to After-Holiday Clearance Schedules

Raise

Gift Card Granny

Cardpool

29 Gift Card Hacks You Should Be Using

Acorns

Learn more about how to earn and save money like the financial whiz you know you can be.