The holiday shopping season has arrived and the traffic at the mall is beginning to increase. For the budget-minded consumer, there are plenty of ways to cut costs on holiday shopping. While many consumers will be paying an extravagant amount of their hard-earned money on Christmas gifts for their friends and loved ones, financially-savvy consumers know how to better stretch their money at the mall and stand-alone stores alike. Some consumers have even mastered the fine art of getting their gifts for free.
Getting free Christmas gifts for your friends and your family may seem like a far-fetched gimmick, but with some strategic planning it is quite easy to keep your budget intact by scoring free Christmas gifts. Here is a look at how some consumers are getting their Christmas gifts to give to their friends and family, free of charge.

Cashing in Loyalty Points
Many retail stores offer customer loyalty programs. These programs provide rewards to frequent customers based upon the amount they spend; the more you spend, the more you typically earn back. If there is a store you shop at frequently that offers a customer loyalty program, find out if you are eligible to cash out. Many stores provide free merchandise or monetary value rewards as appreciation for being a loyal customer. What better time to cash in those reward points than during the holiday season when you are spending money on holiday gifts? Often you can check eligibility, reward opportunities and balances on the retailer's website. By applying your reward points to holiday purchases, or giving away merchandise rewards as gifts, you are essentially receiving and giving free gifts.

Strategically Combining Sales with Extreme Couponing Methods
Another way that many consumers are using to get free Christmas gifts is by strategically combining retail sales with extreme couponing methods. Coupons from manufacturers seem to fly through various communication channels such as postal mail, e-mail, text messaging and more, in an attempt to convince consumers to shop at their retail stores. These coupons, when combined with great sales, can provide the ultimate in savings. This strategy does not work all the time, however, because some stores have rules and regulations on what purchases coupons can be used on and whether you can combine a coupon with a sale. Prior to shopping you may want to check out the store's rules on their website.

Third-Party Online Rewards Programs
Third party online rewards programs are another great way to score free Christmas gifts for your friends and family. Websites such as eBates.com provide incentive for shoppers to visit their website first, prior to making an online purchase. Ebates.com offers cash back at varying percentage rates, depending on the retailer. By earning cash back rewards on your purchases throughout the year, you can easily receive a large bonus check just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Charities Provide Free Christmas Gifts for Low-Income Families
An option for families who are seriously struggling financially is to accept assistance from generous local and national charities that provide Christmas gifts for children from low-income families. Some examples of these charities include the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots and Angel Tree, although there are more. While many of the organizations that offer assistance will not require you to prove your financial need, you may need to explain why you are incapable of purchasing the gifts yourself. With that being said, these organizations are only for parents in truly dire financial straits, who would not be able to purchase their children Christmas gifts.

Cash In Old Gift Cards
A gift-giving trend that is growing in popularity is the exchange of gift cards. Gift cards are a great alternative when you are not quite sure what to get someone on your Christmas list. While many consumers use their gift cards right away, others allow them to sit in their wallets, forgotten about. Prior to paying out of pocket, check your wallet to see if you have any gift cards you can use. By using gift cards for your holiday purchases, you aren't actually taking any money out of your own pocket. Meanwhile your gifts are purchased and your holiday budget remains intact.

The Bottom Line
While most people want to give their family and friends lavish gifts, the truth is, most of us just don't have the financial fortitude to be as generous as we would like to be. That is where cost-saving measures come into play. By getting gifts at a low price or free, you are helping keep your holiday costs in check.

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