From buying presents and decorations, hosting parties and gatherings, and traveling to see loved ones, the holidays are always a time that is tougher on your wallets.  In fact, the National Retail Federation predicts that the 2021 holiday season will have the highest retail sales on record with spending forecasted to be between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. However, the holidays don’t have to be a time of crazy spending; there are many ways to save money this 2021 holiday season, especially by using technology.

1. Opt for electronic holiday cards

Some of us are all too familiar with the hassle of the annual holiday greeting card. For the 2021 holiday season, save yourself some time (and money!) and opt for an electronic holiday card instead of the traditional printed one. You can still send a personalized, heartfelt note alongside your beautiful pictures, but you can skip the tedious steps of getting stamps, putting the cards in envelopes, and mailing them.

There are many sites with free or cheap customizable e-cards, such as Canva, Smilebox, Kudoboard, JibJab, and Greenvelope. Some of these sites even allow you to attach music, videos, or gifs for an extra personal touch. As an added bonus, if saving time and money wasn’t enough, e-cards are also much better for the environment than traditional printed cards.

Electronic holiday cards from greenvelope
Electronic holiday cards
Photo Credit: Greenvelope

2. Consider curbside pickup over shipping

To avoid some of the astronomical shipping costs that may be added to the end of your online orders, consider choosing curbside pickup instead. Many stores have added this as a free option, and it still prevents you from the bustle of last-minute holiday shopping from the comfort of your car. 

In addition to saving money, curbside pickup ensures that your product will not be delayed. Many items online that are listed as “in stock” are actually unavailable or on backorder, meaning that you run the risk of a shipping delay. By selecting curbside pickup, you can rest easy knowing that your items are in stock and with you. 

3. Check online for holiday deals

For your 2021 holiday shopping, don’t just depend on Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Many stores that historically held major deals on these days are now spreading their discounts throughout the holiday season, so be sure to check their websites so you don’t miss out! 

For example, Amazon is doing Holiday Dash, running now through the holidays, with different items daily that have Black Friday-like discounts. Similarly, Target is promoting a month-long sale called Holiday Best in November leading up to Black Friday, celebrating special deal categories that change each week. 

Black Friday Deals Target Holiday Best 2021
Photo Credit: Krazy Koupon Lady

In addition to deal days, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Target, and Walmart all have similar price match guarantees where they promise to pay the difference automatically on qualifying items that drop in price after purchase. Keep track of your receipts and what items you are buying so you can be sure that you got them at the best possible price throughout the season. 

4. Buy second-hand electronics

Whether it’s a new phone, computer, video game console, or headphones, electronics are one of the most popular gifts to give and receive each holiday season. In 2021, consider buying some of these electronics second-hand! Refurbished electronics can save you a great deal of money on gifts, and if you buy them from retailers like Best Buy, Amazon, eBay, Trademore, Gazelle, or Walmart, they often come with a warranty so you can ensure that the item is good as new. 

Not only does buying refurbished electronics help your wallet, but it also helps the planet. In 2019, the United States generated 6.92 million tons of electronic waste, with about 80 percent of it going directly to landfills. Electronic companies like Regency Technologies are trying to lower this number by collecting old electronics and recycling them sustainably. The company determines if the electronics can be repaired and refurbished to go to resale or if their parts should just be stripped into raw materials to be recycled. By buying refurbished electronics, you are doing your part to help reduce the number of old electronics that go directly to landfills.

5. Use smart plugs and LED lights for your holiday lights

Remembering to turn off your tree or decorative lights can be a tedious task, but forgetting to do so can easily and quickly rack up your electric bill. To prevent this, plug your lights into smart plugs—plugs that can be programmed to switch the lights on and off at certain times. A good rule of thumb is to have the lights on for six hours or less each day. You can even connect some smart plugs directly to your phone, allowing you to turn them off whenever and wherever. 

Replacing traditional Christmas lights with LED lights can also save up to 90 percent on electricity, making it an easy way to save money in the 2021 holiday season. They emit less heat which makes them more efficient and durable—they can last up to ten years. They are also much safer to use on trees and wreaths. 

smart plug to save money on 2021 holiday season
Photo Credit: Nexx

6. Take advantage of free digital store reward cards

Many stores have digital reward cards that are 100% free that you should be taking advantage of. For example, Target’s REDcard saves you 5 percent off on most purchases; all you have to do is link the card to your checking account or credit card so the purchases run through those accounts. You also enjoy free shipping when you order from with this card.

If you are planning on buying new or refurbished electronics this holiday season, check out BestBuy’s Reward Zone, a free membership that gets you $5 off for every $250 spent. If you are more into makeup than electronics, consider Ulta’s Ultamate Rewards or Sephora’s Beauty Insiders, where you get one point for each $1 spent with the points adding up to money off (Ulta) or free beauty samples (Sephora). For your clothes shopping needs, Kohl’s Yes2You Rewards earns you $5 for every $100 you spend, JCPenny Rewards gets you 1 point for every $2 you spend, and Nordstrom’s Notes earns you one point per $1 spent. These are all fantastic (and free!) ways to get money back on purchases that you would make anyway.

7. Digitized cash back rewards

Another way to earn money on purchases that you would make anyways is through the free cash back rewards and payments app Ibotta. To start earning money, simply download Ibotta on your smartphone or log in on your desktop, choose from thousands of products that have a cash back reward to them from over 1,500 brands and retailers to add to your list. Once you shop in-store or online as usual, you submit your receipt or link your grocery account to earn cash. Your earned money can be withdrawn directly to your bank, PayPal, or gift cards. 

Whether you’re buying groceries, clothing, electronics, or wine and beer, Ibotta will pay you cash for some of your purchases. Ibotta includes practically all of your local grocery stores like Food Lion, Giant Eagle, Trader Joe’s, Costco, Aldi, Jewel-Osco, and so many more. In addition to saving money on your holiday groceries, Ibotta includes many other stores that you may be buying from for the holidays such as American Eagle, Bed Bath & Beyond, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Free People, Kay Jewelers, Nike, Ticketmaster, and more. 

Ibotta Free Thanksgiving Dinner how to save money 2021 Holiday Season
Photo Credit: Ibotta

If you’re looking to save money on your Thanksgiving feast, Ibotta is also currently running a promotion with several popular brands at select retailers to get 100 percent cash back on turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and more. All you have to do is add the specified items to your list, purchase them, and then add your receipt to the app. 

Find out more about the innovation of digitized cash back programs on Tomorrow’s World Today’s “Getting Paid to Shop” streaming NOW on Science Channel GO and Discovery GO!