Christmas is coming, but contrary to the Wikipedia, you’re going to need far more than a penny to handle all of the grocery shopping and gift buying that needs to be done in the coming months. The holiday season is the busiest shopping period of the year, after all, and regardless of the particular holiday you plan to celebrate, you’re likely in the market for a means of saving.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the average holiday shopper is expected to spend $749.51 this year. And given the popularity of gift cards – they’ve been the most requested holiday gift for five straight years – one of the first places to turn when looking to cut costs should be an online gift card exchange.

Online gift card exchanges are basically forums for consumers to sell gift cards they don’t want and buy cards from their favorite stores at a discount. These services play an important role in light of the fact that people inevitably fail to use all of the gift cards they receive each year. Roughly $41 billion in gift cards went unused from 2005 to 2011, according to TowerResearch, and data from Consumer Reports shows that about a quarter of consumers typically have at least one gift card remaining a year after receiving it as a holiday present. That’s why a gift card exchange can score you the following types of deals:

JCPenny: 20% off

PacSun: 15% off

Brookstone: 12% off

The Limited: 12% off

Using an online exchange isn’t the only way gift cards can help improve the gift giving process this holiday season. Making a gift card wish list and encouraging friends and family to do the same will also help prevent hassle and increase the likelihood that you’ll give/get better presents. You see, an online gift card wish list is unique in the sense that it is maintenance free; all you have to do is pick your favorite stores and share the list with your Facebook friends and/or e-mail contacts. Whether a loved one gives you a gift card or a specific item from one of these stores, you’re assured of getting something you like, even if you receive duplicates. Multiple gift cards to the same store can help you buy a particularly pricey item that would be rude to ask for outright, and an unwanted item is only a return away from becoming something that you do enjoy. What’s more, you and your loved ones won’t have to waste money on shipping and can instead put the savings toward a nicer gift.

So, as the weather turns increasingly cold and you start to deck the halls, just remember how gift cards can help you save and you’ll have a bank account in less need of a resolution come the New Year.

This guest post comes from Card Hub, a website that helps consumers find the best credit cards for their needs and operates the nation’s largest gift card exchange.

This an other seasonal articles can be found in the 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide  (PDF). You can also read the Flip Version .