11 Strategies Zoomers Can Use To Save When Holiday Shopping

Big red gift box in shopping cart.
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It’s poised to be an expensive holiday shopping season for Gen Z. A recent GOBankingRates survey found that nearly half (42%) of consumers in this generation plan to spend more on holiday shopping this year than last, with the majority (28%) anticipating that they will spend $100 to $300 more and an additional 20% expecting to spend $301 to $500 more.

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While inflation is certainly making gifts more expensive this year, there are still strategies that this social media- and tech-savvy generation can implement to save on holiday shopping. Here’s a look at a few of these money-saving strategies.

Stick To a Budget

The first step toward responsible holiday shopping is setting a budget, said Tori Dunlap, founder of Her First $100K and author of “Financial Feminist.”

“Don’t begin online shopping without setting certain parameters for yourself,” she said. “Take a minute and sit down to see who you’re shopping for, how much discretionary money you have to spend and how much you need to save for holiday shopping. Then allocate a certain number for [gifts for] people and begin shopping that way. It might seem like a chore, but it’s much better than the alternative of going into credit card debt or overspending during the holidays.”

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Plus, spending too much can add to your existing holiday season stress.

“Blowing your budget will detract from your celebration of the season by adding to the stress you already feel rushing from event to event,” said Chalmers Brown, former CTO of Due.

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Follow the Rule of 5

To prevent overspending, Jaspreet Singh, CEO and founder of Briefs Media, recommends sticking to his “rule of five.”

“If you can’t buy five of them, you can’t afford one of them,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with splurging, but you have to be able to afford it first.”

Use Your Phone

Embracing mobile apps and online shopping can be advantageous for this generation.

“There are plenty of apps and services that can help you to stay on budget this holiday season,” said Len Penzo, founder of the personal finance blog Len Penzo dot Com. “For example, price comparison apps such as ShopSavvy and RedLaser can help you find the best deals in town. And don’t forget gift-list apps such as Santa’s Bag that offer quick access to your Christmas wish list and [allow you to] track your holiday budget. Finally, coupon apps like Coupon Sherpa can help you get great holiday gifts for a little less than you expected.”

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Steve Chou, founder of MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, recommends using the coupon app Honey.

“Honey will automatically search for coupons for products,” he said.

Bob Lotich, author of “Simple Money, Rich Life,” also recommends using cash-back apps.

“It is pretty easy for the average American to save $50 to $100 on Christmas shopping just by using a cash-back app like Rakuten or Ibotta,” he said. “With as simple as these apps are to use, it really is like throwing money away if you aren’t using one.”

You can also utilize your phone to save when shopping in-store.

“Arm yourself with information as you shop,” said Misty Larkins, president of Relevance. “Gen Zers [can] use their smartphones to run a reality check on in-store prices.”

Shop Using a Cash-Back Credit Card

“The one strategy we always recommend is to use a cash-back credit card when you shop,” said Andrew Schrage, CEO of MoneyCrashers.com. “It’s the one guaranteed way to regain at least a bit of what you spend on every purchase.”

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Use Social Media To Research Before Buying

One way to save is to not spend money on something that isn’t worth it in the first place. Gen Z can use social media to their advantage to become informed consumers by seeking reviews from influencers they know to be trustworthy.

“Followers get the benefit of honest feedback on products they are interested in purchasing from someone they know and trust,” said Paul Vachon, founder of The Frugal Toad.

In addition to researching products, Gen Z can use social media to research great deals.

“Some great examples are following hashtags on TikTok known for sharing deals, such as #amazonfinds, or following influencers who share tips on how to coupon or where to find the best discounts or dupes,” said Gretchen Scheiman, VP of marketing at DailyPay.

Use Social Media To Score Discounts

When TikTok, Instagram and YouTube influencers share products they love on social media, “companies are likely to offer followers discounts to help promote their products,” said Sam Dogen, founder of Financial Samurai. Gen Z shoppers can use these exclusive discount codes to save on holiday purchases.

Another way to score discounts is to follow brands directly.

“When they run sales, you will likely see targeted ads,” said Lena Gott, founder of WhatMommyDoes.com. This can ensure you won’t miss a big sale during the holiday shopping season.

Cash in Credit Card Points

If you’ve racked up credit card rewards throughout the year, now is a good time to redeem them.

“A lot of cards let you use your points on Amazon and offer exclusive discounts on a multitude of websites,” said fashion and beauty influencer Anna Redman. “Read the fine print of what your card gets you and cash in on those benefits.”

Daragh Murphy, co-founder and CEO of Imprint, adds, “To maximize savings this season, Gen Zers should look at all of their credit benefits to stack rewards with discounts and sales.”

Shop Online Marketplaces

The best holiday deals Gen Z can get might not be found at big-box stores.

“Check Facebook Marketplace, eBay and Craigslist,” said Jason Steele, credit card and travel rewards expert. “You can often find goods for sale [for less] there. Some might even be new or unused.”

Pay Attention to Shipping Costs

Steve Gickling, founder of ETLrobot, recommends using price tracking tools when shopping to get a full picture of the total cost of an item on one site versus another.

“You can then make an informed decision as to price versus shipping specifications,” he said.

If one site has a lower price but higher shipping costs, it might not be the best deal.

Avoid Shopping During Peak Hours

John Rampton, CEO at Calendar, reminds Gen Z shoppers that time is money.

“As someone with an abiding interest in using my time most productively, I find it best to shop when most people do not,” he said. “Retailers like to hype their doorbuster deals, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to participate. For example, you might save $25 on a purchase by waking early on Black Friday, but you are also likely to waste $50 worth (or more) of your time fighting traffic and crowds.”

Get Creative With Gift Giving

Giving a thoughtful gift doesn’t always require spending money. Gen Z can save on shopping by opting to give some people homemade or experience-based gifts instead.

“Paint a picture, write a heartfelt note, offer free haircuts — that is, if you know how to cut hair,” said Derek Sall, founder of LifeAndMyFinances.com. “The sky’s the limit!”

As John Hall, CEO of JohnHallSpeaking.com, notes, these are often the more memorable gifts anyway.

“Prefer experience over merchandise,” he said. “Remember that most people couldn’t begin to tell you what they received from you two or three years ago.”

More From GOBankingRates

Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article.

Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 1,025 Americans ages 18 and older from across the country between Oct. 17 and Oct. 21, 2022, asking 18 different questions: (1) Do you plan on spending more or less on holiday shopping this year?; (2) With the current state of inflation, how much more do you expect to spend on holiday shopping this year?; (3) What is your favorite place to shop for the holidays?; (4) Do you have to change any of the following holiday traditions this year due to rising costs?; (5) Where do you do the majority of your holiday shopping?; (6) How much do sales factor into your holiday shopping?; (7) How much time do you take off from work during the holidays?; (8) How much would you typically spend on a gift for a family member?; (9) How much would you typically spend on a gift for a friend?; (10) Where have you noticed rising prices for holiday shopping/expenses this year? (Select all that apply); (11) When did you start or plan to start your holiday shopping this year?; (12) As the holiday season approaches, which of the following applies to you?; (13) How much do you plan to spend exclusively on gifts this holiday season?; (14) How much do you plan to spend on travel during the holidays?; (15) Who do you tip for the holiday season?; (16) Do you tip extra to service workers (food delivery, Uber, hairdresser, etc.) during the holidays?; (17) What is the primary way you plan on paying for your holiday spending?; and (18) What holiday purchases do you make at the dollar store? (Select all that apply). GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.

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About the Author

With eight years of experience working in the personal finance space at GOBankingRates, Jaime Catmull has amassed an extensive network of financial influencers and experts. Now, she’s tapping that network to get the real scoop on how you can live your best financial life and increase your wealth.
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