$250 American Express Gift Card

The holiday shopping season is in full effect. Have you started knocking out your gift list yet? Have you even started a list lol? I really hoped I could say “one and done” this year by having all of my presents purchased and wrapped by December 1, but I had no such luck! I may not be on schedule, but I will still take the time do my homework and shop smart this, and every, holiday season!

I’ve teamed up with American Express to offer up a “Holiday Shopping Challenge” for a chance to win the gift card of your choice valued at $250! The goal is to educate my savvy readers, and for my readers to educate each other, on the benefits of smart shopping. The following are a few of my tips for staying within your budget this holiday season.

Holiday Budget Shopping Tips

  • Always Know Your Limits – Start with an overall budget and then come up with an itemized spending limit per each person on your list.
  • Track your spending. It helps to have a spreadsheet that subtracts each dollar spent against your total budget.
  • Online Shopping – I find that a lot of times I can get a better deal online as the market tends to offer more competitive prices. When ordering online, wait for free shipping and if possible, free return shipping.
  • Do Your Homework – Most merchants offer price matching. I always search for deals online for the best price and call a merchant to see if they would honor the same price and they usually will to get your business.
  • Membership Rewards – One of my best tips is to get paid for shopping – earn rewards, not finance charges. I put all of my shopping dollars (gas, food, literally everything) on my American Express Rewards Card. I pay it off at the end of the month so that I do not incur finance charges (which is easy by staying within my budget), and earn Membership Reward points on all dollars spent, so they are essentially “paying me” to use their card. The rewards I earn can be put towards saving on future purchases. Membership rewards are an amazing way to stretch my holiday shopping budget even further.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the spirit of holiday shopping with all of the beautiful lights, music and smell in every store. For this reason alone, I try my best to get all of my shopping online so that I do not give in to temptation. In fact, I don’t even bother with Black Friday deals when I can usually get a better deal on Cyber Monday, with free shipping, and avoid the crazy crowds.

My Holiday Shopping Challenge

When I host these contests, I always get so jealous of my readers and wish I could win the giveaways too. Well guess what, American Express is also giving me a $250 gift card and 40,000 membership rewards. My challenge is to cash in my gift card and points on 5 of my loved ones, without going over this budget. Check back next week to find out who won this contest and check out what I picked up for my friends and family, including an item I purchased at Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday is the day we celebrated the “Shop Small” movement that drove shoppers to local merchants across the U.S.

How To Win

Leave a separate comment for each entry below (comments must be approved). US residence only please. Contest ends at 11:59 pm PST December 8th and a winner will be selected at random on December 9th.

Required (once): Share your personal tips for staying within your holiday budget for a chance to win a gift card of your choice valued at $250!

Additional Chances to Win (optional): – Tweet and/or Facebook a budget tip (up to once daily) and comment to this post to let us know you have done so.

Please remember to leave a separate comment for each entry.

Disclosure – this is a paid sponsored post. All opinions are 100% my own.

220 Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    My #1 was to stay within my budget is to transfer spending money to my secondary account. My primary account is the one I use for bills and savings. My secondary account just contains spending money. After it is gone I have to wait until the next pay cycle to spend more.

  2. My personal tip for staying within your holiday budget is to make a list. Make list of whom you are purchasing gifts for and alot a maximum dollar amount for each person. Don’t go over that dollar amount :-)..

  3. Another personal tip for staying within your holiday budget is to plan ahead by putting aside a set amount of money each month for your holiday spending budget. I begin my holiday savings in January and let the dough add up throughout the year so when the holidays roll around, I have a stash of cash to work with.

  4. Jenn says:

    My #1 tip for staying within my holiday budget is transferring a specific amount with each paycheck to my savings for a few months and then taking that $$ out and only using it to buy gifts for the holidays.
    Makes it so much easier to stay on budget because when that amount is gone then I’m finished shopping

  5. kfloveinme says:

    My personal tip is rack up on coupons for stores and coupon codes online. Its amazing how many coupons you can find. Also, if you have credit cards points, try using them to get people gift cards! But most important, stay in your budget! No reason, to go into debt during the holidays. Those who love and care for you will love whatever you give them no matter what the cost. :-)

  6. Mia says:

    I like to make personalized gift baskets for the people in my life, with cute little cheapies that they will enjoy. For example, for my little brother this year, i’ve already made his basket for a “guys night out”. It has these cute finger mustache tattoos, an ice mold that makes shot glasses, a mini book of “Come-ons & Pick-ups for Every Occassion”, airplane bottles of liquor, and a few gourmet beers. Everything was under $7 and the total basket was about $25! Sometimes it’s better (and cheaper) to just think outstide of the box.

  7. Marta says:

    I always try to include something homemade with my gifts – a mix cd, cookies, etc. Once I decorated old glass bottles, filled it with bubble bath and gave it to friends. I also shop at stores where I get/have rewards and coupon codes. Finally, I set a specific price for each person and shop within that limit.

  8. Marissa says:

    One of my most helpful tips is making a list and STICKING to the list!

    I always make a list of all the people I want to buy gifts for and the item I want to buy for them next to it then I make sure I don’t get anything extra and I stick to what I wrote down.

  9. Kat says:

    How I stay within our holiday budget is that now we draw names (I am from a family of breeders) so we buy one nice gift for the name selected instead of little stuff for lots of people! And then there are coupons and discount codes. And last but not least… homemade gifts full of love! They seem to be some of the best gifts we give!

  10. Emma says:

    I am in college and only had a job for the summer so my money can deplete pretty fast. So I always shop at Marshall’s, TJ Mxx, Ross, and Kohl’s (because I always have coupons for Kohl’s) first, because you can find great items there and if you don’t then you can resort to the mall or online. I have got my brother, dad, mom, and friends gifts from all those stores each year and they LOVE them. I always go to garage sales looking for unique items, I got an old record player for $10 and it works like a dream. And I have a few records I can’t stand and I am making a clock out of one for my friend who keeps looking for clocks to go with her room :) and this record matches completely! For my other friend who likes to draw (and is into records) I am cutting a record and gluing it to a drawing book:) on top of the items I bought them for under $50 at my favorite stores. Making items that look like you bought them in store is amazing and is never cheesy, homemade gifts come from the heart and show your creativity. I found an awesome DIY website (http://www.cutoutandkeep.net/) featuring women of all ages and some guys, that show you how to make amazing items from everyday items or how to carve your own jewelry box (what a great gift!) I have a very small budget and I have almost finish all of my shopping, I just need to make a few items and schedule a baking day. I love baking for people if you couldn’t afford to buy an item or you feel like your gift needs an extra BAM!

    I always do my research though. Before I buy anything from Marshall’s, TJ Mxx, Ross, or Kohl’s, I look around online, and save those prices, then check all my stores for the best items and their prices. Then when I know where the best deal is I go and I go fast so it isn’t gone! I love the holiday’s but it gets depressing looking at your bank statement, so I try not and just track and my shopping so I know the amount I have but then I won’t actually look and feel the pain of not having enough. But then you see your friends and family and forget all about it! I hope everyone does there research before stepping into a store with your debit card locked and loaded, and remember homemade gifts sound intimidating if you feel like you won’t succeed but there are directions all over the internet! YOU CAN DO IT :) and you’ll see a side of you that you didn’t know existed! New Skills are attractive! Happy Holidays!

  11. Tracie Trump says:

    I shop with cash only and use coupons to stay on budget! [email protected]

  12. Thankfully, my family only buys gifts for the kids (under age 20), so that helps, but we also have 6 birthdays in the month of December. So, we make a list of each person we have to buy for, set a dollar amount for each gift and put that money on a separate card (we use my Paypal account), which helps us keep track & not overspend! I also go shopping on Black Friday to take advantage of the best deals so we get the most for our money!!

  13. Mami2jcn says:

    To stay within my holiday budget, I keep a very strict list and will only buy items off the list as they go on sale or if I have a coupon for them. I make the list in September and I have to be patient to wait for the good deals.

  14. Mami2jcn says:

    I shared a tip on FB with my username Mary Happymommy–http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=299414490088921&id=100000611160195

  15. Mami2jcn says:

    tweeted–https://twitter.com/#!/mami2jcn/status/142643233896402944

  16. Becky M. says:

    Sales, sales, sales! I do the best shopping and budget shopping online. An easy way to compare prices and get the best deal. So many stores also offer online discount codes. It is even better when they offer free shipping.

  17. 1. Start early. So many people think that they can’t start holiday shopping until after Thanksgiving. The truth is, there are plenty of deals before that (and all year long) you just have to be aware of them.
    2. When shoppping online, use ebates. It’s the EASIEST way to get cash back on purchases and all you have to do is go to ebates.com, sign up and start your shopping venture there.
    3. Before checking out when online shopping, ALWAYS google the store’s name + “coupon code”. A lot of times you can find $5 off coupons or free shipping, etc. Every little bit helps!

    Happy holiday shopping!

  18. Anisha says:

    I always make lists for what I want to get for each person in my family. I start researching these items online for weeks starting black friday. I scour the web especially amazon. For stores, I love going to Kohls and TJ Maxx for the best deal. If there is something on my list, I will go to the store and check it out to see how many of that particular item they have. If they have a lot I will wait a few weeks because with christmas season, stores get new merchandise all the time and will put the old merchandise on sale sooner!!! I have scored really great deals on sweaters and shoes that way!

  19. Stephanie McAllister says:

    My tip is for buying toys for children. Target has a huge sale in the summer & some toys & video games are up to 75% off. I call it my Christmas in July shopping ;-)

  20. Ashton says:

    Start shopping early! It’s never too soon to start shopping and I always start keeping bookmarks of things I think someone on my list will enjoy. When I see something similar that is either DIY or on sale, I grab it! Since it’s now December I only have one more present left on my list since I had all of the other ones months ago! (:

    Also, ebates is a great tool! It’s easy to get instantaneous cash back and there’s no reason not to use it!

  21. Best way to stay on budget it DIY gifts, they’re cheap and from the heart.

  22. Elena says:

    I make a list and stick to it. I never buy something I don’t need even if it’s a good deal.

  23. Jessie C. says:

    To say within holiday budget, I have a price book when it comes to something we need and buy so I know the bottom line and won’t fall for all sales signs easily. I also shop with the spreadsheet/list on hand so I won’t lose the focus making impulse buy. For holiday in-store shopping, I pay attention to store policy, such as return and price match, sometimes if pays to ask and get discount you just never know; for online shopping, always search for coupon codes and go through cash back sites to maximize savings.

  24. Katherine says:

    I transfer a little bit of money from every paycheck into a savings account and use that to buy my gifts. I also brainstorm and make a list of what I’m going to get people so I can shop around for the best deals.

  25. Ashley says:

    My tip would be to gather coupons when you see them for any and all types of stores. Then, think outside the box when shopping. You can find great gifts at stores you may not have thought to look at AND now you’ve got additional savings with coupons. The dollar store and dollar section at Target is another great way to save! And to keep within your budget I would give everyone on you shopping list a “price” so you know ahead of time what your max spending would be and it gives you a guideline so you don’t go crazy spendning.

  26. Kathy says:

    One of the ways that I stay on budget during the holiday season is to bring coupons to the store.

  27. colleen boudreau says:

    My tip is to only bring a set amount of money with you or on your card, and have a list of exactly what you plan to buy and stick to it.
    holliister at gmail dot com

  28. Brittany L. says:

    My tip for staying on budget is to make a list with gift options and prices for each person you are buying for. Then I shop with cash to ensure I stay within the allotted amount.

  29. Amanda Sakovitz says:

    My tips for staying with the holiday budget are to set a price limit on each person’s gift so you dont spend too much and to also use coupons and shop during sales.

  30. Ashley H. says:

    When I shop online I got through Ebates to get cash back on my purchase and I also check out retailmenot.com to see if there are any promo codes I can use.

  31. Cami says:

    Every year I write a list of the people that I want to buy gifts for, my husband and I come up with our budget, and we allocate it from there. If it’s not within the budget we don’t get it!

  32. Kerensa says:

    I withdrawl cash for shopping and make up seperate envelopes of money for each person I need to shop for. Once the money in the persons envelope is gone, thats all they get. Seems to work for me every year.

  33. Mel says:

    The first and most important thing is to set a budget and stick to it. I give myself a cap overall as well as caps for individual people. For example, we usually shop for a lot of nieces and nephews, so we tend to say $10 per child. Our overall budget is not flexible, but the individual caps are if I can find good deals!

    I start out by making a list of all the people I have to buy for and writing down 4-5 gifts for each of those people. Then I do my research. I start online and get an idea of prices at various sites. At the same time, I will search for coupons, store deals, giveaways and any way to save money on the items on my list. Finally, I create my shopping game plan and I typically knock out everything in one week/weekend.

    Don’t forget to include other purchases, like Christmas cards, egg nog for the holiday party and the $10 for your work secret santa. These expenses add up and are often left off the budget. Remember: Christmas isn’t worth it if you’re still paying the bill when the snow melts!

  34. Farrah says:

    My biggest tip and it saves me every year is having a Christmas savings account. A certain set dollar amount is direct deposited into my Christmas account every month. I can either withdraw the cash in December and use cash for all of my purchases or use my American Express for all purchases and earn points and then use my Christmas account money to make the payment. On top of that I make lists of who I need to shop for with the item I would like to purchase and keep it with me at all times. I ALWAYS do a coupon search before shopping and will plan gifts around those stores with coupons.

  35. Angela says:

    The way I stay within my budget during the holidays is to allocate a certain dollar amount for each person and try to catch as many sales/use coupons to make sure I stay within that amount. This year, I think I may do some more DIY gifts because they’re more personal and less expensive.

  36. janet h says:

    I make a list and I give myself a certain limit that I cannot go over. I have a list for each person I am getting gifts for; and in each list I have a dollar amount I cannot go over.

  37. Ruhee says:

    To stay within the budget I shop with cash only.I am also on the lookout for sales and bargain deals couple of months before Christmas and if any of it makes a good gift, I buy it, even though its not Dec yet.

  38. Maureen says:

    I have a running idea of what I am giving people. I shop the Sales all year long and I make a good portion of what I give as gifts.

  39. Jennie says:

    For the past two years I’ve stayed within budget for my Xmas shopping and gifts by keeping a Christmas Club through my local credit union.

    Beginning in January, a “set amount” is withdrawn from my checking account. It can be weekly or bi-weekly. I forget I have this money account and come November I get my funds which are strictly for gifts.

  40. Anita says:

    What I do to make sure I still within budget is to make an excel sheet to keep track of what I have already spent, writing things down and adding them up makes me not spend so much since little by little it all adds up!

  41. Jennifer B says:

    To stay on budget, I’ll invest money into smaller, but more personal and thoughtful gifts. Rather than buying the latest apple gadget, or some pricey fashion item, I’m planning on making homemade cards and getting friends jewelry from etsy!

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  1. [...] have a winner for our American Express $250 holiday gift card giveaway! And the winner is… Tabathia B! Congratulations and we’ll contact you shortly to get [...]

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