1. Start a Secret Santa exchange. If your gift list is getting too unwieldy, talk with your loved ones ASAP to look for ways to limit the list. (Odds are, your cousin will be thankful to reduce her holiday shopping list as well.) "I have 20 nieces and nephews," says Lauren Greutman, frugal living expert and author of The Recovering Spender. "To not offend anyone we pick names and set a limit of $30 per child. This way our kids each get a quality gift that they want, and the parents get a break on the Christmas budget."
2. Make a list (and a budget) before you hit the mall or go online. Decide what you're going to spend on each person on the list—and at least an idea of what you'd like to get them. That'll head off impulse buys and ensure that you get something they really want.
3. Stack up the savings. "The best way to save is by combining multiple layer discounts," Greutman says. "For example, you can shop through Swagbucks to earn points that you can trade in for future gift cards, use a coupon code that you find through RetailMeNot.com, and sign up for a free trial of ShopRunner.com to get free shipping. Stacking all of these savings on a single item cam get you a really great deal." Add in potential cashback through a credit card (like the instant 5 percent you get off by using your RedCard at Target, for example), and you'll get even more of a discount.
4. Check out the sales sites ahead of time. It pays to do your research—especially if you're splurging on a big-ticket item like a TV or gaming system. "Do price comparisons across stores using apps like RedLaser and the Flipp App," Greutman says. "Once you know what store would be the best price, if you shop online through a cash back website then can save even more money. Choose to pick up the item in the store and save even more money on shipping costs."
5. Resist the temptation to buy for yourself. Ready for this surprising stat: More than 10 percent of many people's holiday budgets is spent on goodies for themselves—to the tune of $139.61, according to the National Retail Federation. Rather than give in to the siren call of that awesome deal, snap a pic and the details and send it to a loved one who's in the market for something special for you—you'll help them get you the gift you really want.