Frugal families holiday shopping secrets!

by Melissa Jaramillo

2012 Frugal FamiliesToday's tough economy has families looking for ways to stretch their every day budget.

For the holidays, it can feel even more difficult to meet those wish lists with the dollars designated for holiday shopping.

Some frugal families accept it at as challenge. Rather than being turned off by this buying season, they look forward to it!

Holiday shopping on a budget

These families may view holiday shopping as a game amongst family members as each strives to score the best for less! Want to play along this year? Read on!

Get armed!

For those heading out to the stores (brick and mortar or online!), don't leave without the following "must have" items:

1. A list! Don't enter a store without having a concrete idea in mind of what you want to buy. Stay focused!

2. Checking that list – twice! Before leaving home, do preliminary legwork. Find out where the best price is located. Next, search for store discounts such as 20 percent off everything and early bird specials or specific coupons or rebates available for what you're purchasing.

3. Look at stores that price match and learn their policies. Many times, you can save time and money by combining low prices with another store's discounts.

4. Use technology. If you have a smartphone, download an app that can do price checks for you at the store and compare prices in your area.

Smart tips

The frugal shopper will want to pay special attention to the high discount holiday shopping days available during the season. Thanksgiving (primarily online), Black Friday and Cyber Monday / Week all offer tremendous opportunities to save money.

Additionally, there actually are super savings available for those last minute shoppers. This isn't the best solution for those seeking a "certain" gift. You may not find it late in the season.

Thrifty online buyers, look for free shipping. With the exception of the last few days before Christmas, lots of companies offer to get your gift to you on time if you shop with them. In many cases, this can save you a bunch.

Think outside the box

The most frugal among us think even more creatively for money-saving ideas. These families may be able to tuck away those dollars to cover expenses, pay off debt, or to add towards a family goal -- think vacation, a new car or home.

Here are a few suggestions:
✓ Shop for new or "like new" at thrift stores, consignment sales, Craigslist, eBay, and other web sites
✓ Seek bargains throughout the year by shopping for off season items.
✓ Look for holiday craft sales or bazaars in your area. Top finds may be seen at schools, senior centers, and county fairgrounds for those more unique gifts.
✓ Don't rule out those presents "made with love." Tap into your personal talents or discover new ones.

For ultra-supersavers

Many frugal families find that they get a ton more enjoyment out of their holiday season! Their advice? Consider moving the holiday until after the holiday shopping season has ended!

Some have chosen to turn it into a New Year's party. Others have focused on the Feast of Epiphany, in honor of the Three Kings. Still other families pick their own date and make it their traditional family "holiday."

This concept frees them from fighting the holiday crowds and offers super savings as businesses slash prices to their lowest to move the merchandise before the end of the year. Even those "hot ticket item" may be overflowing on store shelves.

On what otherwise would have been the regular date, some families spend time volunteering to serve others less fortunate, lonely, or hungry. They fuel their holiday spirit while saving money!

Are you among the frugal holiday shoppers this season or would like to be? Let us hear how you plan on saving money this year!

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.