Finding that show-stopping Christmas gift is no easy feat, whether you’re browsing the aisles at your local department store or endlessly perusing Amazon for a perfect pick. In fact, Americans are dropping more cash than ever to fill their friends and family members’ lives with holiday cheer. So, how much will an average Christmas haul cost? According to the National Retail Foundation, Americans plan to shell out an average of $1,007.24 on Christmas gifts this year, a figure that’s up more than 4 percent from 2017, when shoppers averaged $967.13 on their holiday haul.
However, while dropping a mortgage payment or the bulk of a paycheck on Christmas gifts may not be an appealing prospect, there’s good news: if you’re looking to save some serious money—and maybe your sanity in the process—there’s a better time to shop for Christmas presents.
So, when will you get the most for your money?
Starting early—really early—will save you the most when it comes to buying Christmas presents. After the holidays are over, stores tend to discount their merchandise steeply to make room for the following year’s inventory. So, if you’re looking to stock up on majorly discounted gifts, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is generally your best bet, especially when it comes to big-ticket items.
According to NerdWallet, TVs, electronics, fitness equipment, bedding, cars, and toys all tend to have the deepest discounts following the holidays. However, for gifts like iPhones, you’re better off waiting until September, when Apple announces new models, leading to major savings on the previous year’s phone. If it’s laptops and appliances you’re after, waiting until the last minute might just help you out—these items are all cheapest in November, thanks to Black Friday sales.
And if your big gift this year is going to be jewelry, saving those pricey baubles for the following year will serve you well. According to the International Diamond Exchange, just 5.1% of all jewelry is purchased in January—compared to 23.9% in December—meaning that you’ll often find huge deals on diamonds and other expensive jewelry items after Christmas.
What should you do if you miss this year’s January sales?
Even if you miss the post-holiday rush, there are some easy ways to save yourself serious cash when you’re shopping for Christmas presents. First, leave your credit cards at home and set out with a pre-determined amount of cash. According to a study conducted at MIT, people who bid on basketball tickets using cash bid half as much as those who placed their bid on plastic—so you’re more likely to stick to a smaller budget if you don’t tempt yourself by bringing your platinum card along for the ride.
Second, make a list of exactly what you’ll be buying and stick to it. Think that list doesn’t matter in the long run? A study conducted at Dominican University reveals that individuals who wrote down their goals were more successful in terms of adhering to them than those who winged things—meaning that committing your purchases to paper first means you’re less likely to make any impulse buys.
And last, whenever possible, shop online so you can avoid the premium prices at brick-and-mortar stores. Online retailers, like Amazon, offer major savings when compared to their department store counterparts, and when combined with digital discount codes, price comparison plug-ins, and online-only sales, you can save huge amounts of cash—and better yet, avoid braving the holiday crowds. And for more ways to make the most of this holiday season, here are 17 Top Tips from Psychologists for Dealing with Holiday Stress.