12 Ways You Can Save This Holiday Season


The 2020 holiday shopping season was the biggest ever recorded, and experts are already predicting the 2021 season will beat last year’s record by a significant margin.

According to data from the National Retail Federation*, holiday retail sales grew by 8.2% over the previous year and are expected to grow by 8.5% – 10.5% in 2021. In total, retail sales are expected to be between $843.4 billion and $859 billion, a significant increase over the $777.3 billion that shattered records in 2020.

These numbers not only show how big the holiday shopping season is for retailers, but they also illustrate the enormous sums of money people are willing to spend during the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s easy to forget our healthy savings habits whenever the holiday shopping season arrives, but you don’t have to completely blow your piggy bank to have a wonderful holiday experience.

Saving money during the holidays, while still having enough to spend on friends and family, is completely doable! By following a few simple tips, you can make the holiday season more fun, more meaningful, and less financially stressful.


1. Build A Budget

According to research by the National Retail Federation, the average shopper* can expect to spend close to $1,000 in one holiday season. That’s a lot of moolah and can easily dry up your savings if you’re not careful! So, the first step to any solid savings strategy is to create a budget and stick to it. You know how much money you can afford to spend during the holidays, but it’s easy to forget that when you’re in the heat of a holiday spending frenzy.

By building a budget, you’re telling yourself, “I want to show my loved ones how much I care, but I’m also making sure I still have enough saved up for a rainy day.”


2. Make A Shopping List, Check It Twice

Just like jolly old Saint Nicholas, it’s a good spending habit to make a shopping list and check it twice!

Research suggests* that when you write something down, you trigger more brain activity and subsequentially have a greater chance of remembering what you wrote down and why.

By writing out who you are shopping for, and any gift ideas you have for that person, you are reminding yourself to stick to the plan. You’ll greatly cut down on impulse buys that can lead to overspending or cutting into your savings accounts.


3. Be Creative With Your Gifts

Gifting the latest tech gadgets or the trendiest new clothes for the holidays are easy ways to shop for loved ones, but they can also be the most expensive! Getting that hot new item that everyone wants can lead you to spend more than you planned.

So, instead of buying a trendy but boring gift this year, why not get creative? Got a specialized skill that usually costs a fee? Offer your services and expertise to someone instead. If you’re handy with repairs, offer to help someone with a project. If you’re a graphic designer or a writer and you know someone who wants to sell their homemade goods, offer your services for free.


4. Invest In People, Not Things

Sometimes, the best gift you can give someone is not a physical item, but the gift of your time and attention.

Instead of spending money on toys and tech that might be forgotten in a few months, think about how you can give someone the gift of quality time. Spend a day with them at a park, at your favorite coffee shop, or your house, playing card games, sharing a drink, and engaging in good conversation. Those are moments that you can’t put a price tag on.


5. Round Up and Pay Yourself

Want to add to your holiday shopping fund using your debit card? Try Bank OZK’s My Change Keeper!1

My Change Keeper helps you create a smart savings habit by automatically rounding up your debit card purchases to the next whole dollar amount and transferring the difference to your savings. For example, if you spend $2.75, My Change Keeper will round up your charge to $3 and transfer the 25-cent difference to your savings account. It makes savings easier by making it automated, so you can save up for holiday gifts in no time!


6. Avoid Credit Cards, Use Your Debit

Credits cards make it easy to pay for something now and worry about it later. But that’s exactly why they’re so harmful when it comes to making smart savings habits!

Debit cards function in a similar way as old school check balancing; when you make a purchase, it automatically shows up in your online banking account, letting you know how much you’ve spent and how much is left in your account.

We’re not completely against credit cards; they certainly come in handy when you’re in a pinch. However, by using a debit card instead of buying on credit, you can make sure you’re correctly budgeting this shopping season and staying on top of every purchase you make.


7. Use Mobile Wallet

Speaking of buying gifts with debit cards, have you ever used a Mobile Wallet2 to make a purchase?

Mobile Wallets are digital services and apps that exist inside your smartphone. It’s a way to add your debit card to your phone and make purchases simply by tapping your phone on a contact point, rather than pulling out a physical piece of plastic. You can add your Bank OZK debit card to any of the major platforms, including Apple Pay®, Google Pay™, and Samsung Pay™.

Mobile Wallets also keep your card information safer and more secure, and reduce the amount of times your card comes in contact with germs that may be hanging out on merchant point-of-sale systems.


8. Resist Late-Night Shopping

Have you ever made a nighttime purchase that you later regret in the morning? Shopping late in the day might seem like harmless fun, but it can also lead to unwanted purchases on items that cost way more than you remembered when you were browsing late at night!

Take it from us, it’s always better to make decisions when you have morning clarity (and a few cups of coffee in you) than it is browsing a shopping app at 1 in the morning. Avoid spending money you don’t have by scheduling your shopping trips and buying your holiday gifts during the day.


9. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Last-minute shopping is never a good idea – just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in the classic Christmas flick “Jingle All The Way.”

But even if you’re not shopping for Turbo Man this season, you still run the risk of missing out on the gifts that are on your list if you aren’t proactive with your shopping habits. Even worse, maybe you found the gift you’re looking for online, but now the price is twice as much as it was before! Shopping early helps you save money and avoid stressful last-minute shopping sprees.


10. Shop Small and Find Local Deals

Who says you have to shop the big box stores to find the perfect gift? Many of your local small business stores have unique gifts you won’t find anywhere else.

And better yet, small businesses often have special deals during the holiday season that sweeten the small business shopping experience even more! Small Business Saturday, which takes place on Nov. 27 in 2021, is a shopping holiday that’s steadily gained momentum in the last decade, and many businesses offer specials during this holiday that will save you money as you shop for loved ones. Support your local businesses this year and shop small!


11. Treat Yourself To Savings, Not Self-Gifting

It’s easy to shop for yourself when shopping for others, and the range of shopping holidays that exist now, like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Free Shipping Day, make it simpler than ever to buy yourself a little something too.

However, if you’re looking to buy for others this year while saving money too, it’s a good practice to resist the urge to spend money on something you want during your shopping trip. Treat yourself to savings this year instead of self-gifting.


12. Make Something From Scratch Instead of Buying

Remember when you were a child and you wanted to buy your parents something for the holidays, but since you had zero dollars you had to make a gift instead? Do you recall how much your parents appreciated that handmade gift, perhaps more than they would a purchased present?

Handmade gifts are often more sentimental than purchased gifts because the person receiving the gift knows thought and effort were put into making the present. As an adult, there’s no reason you can’t make someone a gift for the holidays too. Craft a crocheted winter hat or paint a beautiful picture if you’re the artsy type. Make them some holiday treats if you love to bake. You’ll save money when you make a gift yourself, while giving someone a gift that they’ll remember forever.


Saving money during the holidays doesn’t mean you have to skimp out on showing the people in your life how much you care. Making an effort to save is all about creating habits that will stick with you long after the holiday shopping season ends.

Find ways this holiday season to have fun, spend quality time with your friends and family, save money, and create those priceless special memories.


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1 When you enroll in our My Change Keeper savings service, we round up the amount of any Bank OZK Visa® debit card purchase made by your or any Bank OZK Visa debit cardholder of your Bank OZK Checking Account to the next whole dollar amount in excess of the purchase price (plus any additional amount you selected), and transfer that amount from your Checking Account to the designated savings or checking account(s). Other terms and conditions apply. Contact your local branch for more details.

2 Mobile features require enrollment in Mobile and Online Banking. Availability may be affected by your mobile carrier’s coverage area. Carrier data charges may apply. Online Banking requires enrollment.