How to shop efficiently this holiday season

Learn how to get deals, track spending and take advantage of credit card rewards during the COVID-19 holiday season.

Like many events this year, getting ready for the holiday season may look different due to COVID-19. Fortunately, retailers have taken note of the environment and introduced a variety of tools to help provide savings opportunities and protective measures as we approach the end of the year.

Here are some tips on ways to find great prices and develop plans that still bring holiday cheer to you and others in your life.

Deals for starting early

Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, major retailers are kicking off the season earlier than ever, offering bigsavings days far ahead of Black Friday in order to avoid large crowds in-store and ensure customers are still able to access steep discounts. “There’s no need to wait until Black Friday or December to begin your holiday shopping,” says personal finance expert Farnoosh Torabi. A few simple Black Friday and Cyber Monday saving tips can go a long way.

Walmart recently announced it will spread out its Black Friday savings this year. Black Friday Deals for Days will include the retailer’s best prices of the season on the most sought-after items. The first of the three-event series begins on Wednesday, November 4. The series runs to November 27.

Sticking to a budget

One way to keep your holiday spending organized is to create a budget for each person on your list. Start by making a list of everyone you want to buy gifts for. Add an amount next to the name of each person that indicates how much to allocate on a gift for them. You might do this on a spreadsheet on the computer, as a note on your phone, or with pen and paper. Your list may include your immediate family and loved ones. You can also add other people in your life to whom you want to show appreciation, such as teachers, neighbors, postal workers and colleagues. 

If you have family members who are concerned about keeping expenses down this year, there are creative ways to set limits as a group. “You might want to throw out the idea of an anonymous gift exchange, ‘Secret Santa’ or ‘Pollyanna,’” Torabi says. This way, she explains, “each family member only needs to shop for one person instead of multiple people.”

Bulk buying opportunities

If you plan to give the same gift to many people, such as chocolates for your friends or stocking stuffers for your kids, you may be able to save by buying in batches. “Often, retailers will provide a 10% or 15% discount if you buy several of one item—whether it’s six pairs of the same socks or several pounds of sweets,” Torabi notes. To spot good deals on bulk items when shopping in-store or online, compare the prices listed on packages of different sizes. You may find that if you buy a large pack, the cost for each item is less than the price for buying that same item individually.

Earn rewards, too

Rewards credit cards are another way to maximize your holiday budget. For example, with the Capital One Walmart Rewards Card, you earn 2% cash back on restaurants—including takeout and delivery for those late nights spent wrapping gifts —and travel, including 2% back on gas at Walmart and Murphy USA Fuel Stations to fuel your road trips to visit friends or relatives this holiday season.  From gifts to groceries and everything in between, you will also earn 5% cash back at, which includes contact-free pickup and delivery, or 2% cash back on in-store purchases. You will also earn 1% cash back everywhere else the card is accepted.

This holiday season, it’s even more rewarding to get the Capital One Walmart Rewards card: new applicants who apply for the card at a Walmart store between November 1 and December 26—or online from November 17 through December 1—will  be eligible for a $50 bonus. This bonus is applied after you spend $300 anywhere on your card during the first three months after approval. 

Enjoying the little things

Even if things seem different this year, there are still ways to create a sense of excitement around the holidays and bond with loved ones. If you don’t plan to travel, you might talk to family members about opening presents over a Zoom or Skype session so everyone can join in on the fun.. You could also look for ways to personalize gifts, such as adding a handwritten note to a book you purchased for a friend.

If you have a special talent, you might be able to use that skill to create a gift for someone you care about. “I’ll never forget when my sister-in-law, who’s a wonderful photographer, gifted us adorable photos of our then 1-year-old son dressed as Santa,” Torabi shares. “She had babysat for us over Thanksgiving and secretly did a photo shoot with him at her house. It’s the sort of gift that is totally unexpected and priceless.” 

Keeping an open mind during the holidays may be the key to fully enjoying the season. Even though shopping will be different, you’ll still have opportunities to find deals and stay safe. And getting creative with gifts can help lift the spirits of friends and family members in your life.  

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