11 Smart Santa Saving Tricks for a Debt-Free January

No, money doesn't grow on Christmas trees, but you can green up your holiday with readers' savviest money-saving tips. By Sandy M. Fernández, REDBOOK.

Save money shopping
It felt like the Grinch had just reached through my computer screen: One morning not long ago, a friend emailed to say that my very favorite daily deals site--the one I'd recently introduced her to-was having a big fat 40-percent-off sale. But when I clicked over, visions of cheap Christmas gifts dancing in my head, her promo code didn't work for me. Turns out these sweet nothings were strictly for checkout newbies, to entice them to pull out the plastic, already--not for loyal buyers like me.

I got mad, and then I got smart and set up an account with my husband's name, filling up a shopping cart… but not buying until the site coughed up that big old discount. Now you know my don't-go-bust-this-year tip, and here are a slew of other sneaky ways to save.

Give to get back
"Right after Thanksgiving, I'd remind my daughter that Santa was coming soon and that we needed to make room for new toys. We'd go through her things and decide which could go: Those in perfect condition were taken to a consignment shop, with the proceeds going to her gift fund; others still in good shape were donated. That way, Mommy wins, she wins, and other children win." -Jackie Cummings Koski, Dayton, OH; author of Money Letters 2 My Daughter

Related: 25 Lazy Ways to Save Money

Chip in together
"I have three teenagers, and they all love to shop--especially at American Eagle Outfitters, which is a little pricey for me. So last year I got the whole family on Shopkick, an app that gives you reward points for frequenting certain stores. Just before Christmas, I used all of our points and other discounts and bought them $500 worth of clothes for only 25 cents. That's right, a quarter!" -Yvonne Blunt, Oregon City, OR

Set up a gift fund
"Since my husband is a software developer and loves tech, I know his gifts will be expensive even before I know exactly what he'll want. So I plan ahead: I auto-transfer a little money specifically for his gifts into my private savings account each month. That's how I had enough in the bank to get him his Samsung cell phone last December. He loves it and uses it constantly, which makes me so happy." -Elle Martinez, Raleigh, NC

Use a Black Friday cheat sheet
"I'm addicted to the site thanksgivingblackfriday.com. They publish leaked ads of major stores' sales before they appear in the newspaper, and tell you which stores are totally mobbed and which you can stroll into later in the day and still get your bargain." -Noelle Story, Milwaukee

Related: The Money Habit That Saves You $1,378 Every Year

Get a second gig
"I drove a potato truck during harvest in my area. I made between $500 and $800, and that paid for Christmas for our family. I'm a gal from Los Angeles, not a farmer, and I got dusty, dirty, and tired for two weeks each fall. But seeing our kids open presents was a wonderful payoff." -Renée West, Boise, ID

Make bargain-hunting way easier

"I'm a couponer and price-matcher, but painstakingly going through all the coupons and weekly store ads takes a toll. A grocery store app like the new Favado really helps. It watches prices locally and will tell you when items you want go on sale, which things you usually buy have coupons that week, and when you can double the discount. It makes shopping on a budget so much easier." -Jennifer Jerozal, Urbana, OH

"Camelcamelcamel.com will tell you when the gifts you want fall into your price range." -Courtney Solstad, McKinney, TX; mycrazysavings.com

Take your talents to market
"I make and sell jewelry on the side at holiday time. I've tried to get a booth at every gift fair I can find. I usually make between $200 and $800 a day, but at my best show ever, I made $2,500!" -Jen McGlashen, Calicoon Center, NY

Related: 78 Gifts Under $50 for Everyone on Your List

Don't be snobby about where you shop
"Drugstore loyalty programs, where you get points or discounts from your shopping, have some of the most generous rewards around. Last year, I was able to buy hugely discounted wrapping paper and things like spa gift sets at Walgreens for around $5." -Leanette Fernandez, Fort Lauderdale, FL; founder of the site teachme2save.com

Can it
"My family has three sons, but only two kayaks, so last year we saved every redeemable can or bottle. We made $187--enough to buy a kayak and some cheap paddles for Christmas." -Alicia Barnett, Westmoreland, NH

Check out shops run by charities

"The year my daughters wanted big-girl bikes, we bought them from a local nonprofit, Trips for Kids, a group that gives bikes to disadvantaged kids and sells used or rebuilt ones-some of them virtually new! Our name-brand bikes were normally about $200, and we paid about half that, plus we're helping this fantastic nonprofit." -Hilary Jeffris, Mill Valley, CA

More from REDBOOK: