Holidays come at the same time every year, which means we all have a full 12 months to plan for them. Unless you are on a limited income, there is really no reason why Christmas expenses cannot be fully funded up front. However, there are still ways that you can save on holiday expenses and also accumulate money to pay for those holiday gifts…
10 Ways To Help Fund and Plan Your Holiday Spending
- Cash In Your Change. In December, Coinstar quite often gives an extra $10 gift card for every $40 dollars in coins cashed in. Save up your change during the year and turn it in when Coinstar has their special promotion, and make 25 percent on the deal. However, make sure you cash in your coins for a gift card so you don’t end up paying ridiculous fees. There is a limit of one bonus gift card per customer, so you won’t be able to cash in $160.00 in change and get $40.00 in gift cards. Regardless, cash in your change, redeem the change in the form of a gift card, and use that gift card for holiday shopping.
- Shop On Vacation. If you put some thought into your gift giving, you will find it doesn’t have to be expensive. Keep your gift recipients in mind when you are on vacation and see if there are some inexpensive and unique presents that you could buy for friends and family. Maybe a unique necklace for your daughter that was made by a local crafts-person? One-of-a-kind gifts can be surprising for the recipient, and fun to give.
- Accumulate and Use Coupons All Year Long. No, I am not saying you should buy your brother 3 boxes of pop tarts for Christmas so you can use a dollar-off coupon. I am referring to the Bed Bath and Beyond, Michael’s, Eddie Bauer, etc coupons that you can accumulate throughout the year and shop as great deals come up. Know someone that could use a Magic Bullet? Use a 30 percent off coupon at Kohl’s and buy it when it is on sale. Even wrap it early and store it in the basement to make the holidays even easier! If you plan on traveling this holiday season, consider checking out sites like Expedia Coupons to see if you can reduce your travel costs. Bottom line: don’t pay top dollar for whatever you are buying.
- Use Credit Card Rewards. No, don’t go digging through those reward books from your credit card company and buy some cheap camera for a ridiculously high amount of points. I am suggesting that if you use a credit card, consider a cash back reward card like American Express Blue Cash (my favorite). Then, use that cash for holiday shopping! My rewards are dispersed in December, so the timing is perfect for me. However, even if the cash rewards are issued in March, you can still save the cash and dog ear the money to be used for the holidays (and use it to shop all year long).
- Set A Budget. Everyone knows that kids will make a Christmas list a mile long, and some parents actually want to buy just about everything their kids wrote on their list. Obviously this is a mistake for a million different reasons. However, holiday shopping really needs to be kept to a reasonable amount. Even if you are experiencing great economic times, you shouldn’t spend more just because you can. Set an amount for spending and stick to it. (Exceptions are allowed for charitable spending though!)
- Sell books. Do you know that if you buy a best seller that is hot off the presses, you can probably get half your money back if you sell it on Amazon immediately after you read it? Selling books on Amazon is incredibly easy, but for some reason, people are intimidated by actually listing their books. Just describe the book accurately and make sure you package the book well when you ship it, and you will be all set. Also, know when the right time is to sell a book. If you have a recent Chemistry textbook lying around the house, don’t sell it in February. Wait until textbook demand is at its highest in late July/August. I know so many people that sell their textbooks back at bargain-basement prices to the bookstore. Don’t do this. I sold a Geometry book that my son used for $80 the summer after he was done with it. If you plan on selling back textbooks though, make sure whoever uses them treats them well. Always think of resale when you own an item.
- Sell Clothes. You can sell clothes either online or take them to a consignment shop. Obviously you can still donate them to a thrift shop, but that will not give you the pocket money for holiday spending. Reselling clothes is especially a good idea if Grandma bought some expensive outfits for your child which they outgrew in two minutes. Many consignment shops specialize in selling high-end clothes, and you can get a decent price for some items.
- Diet and Sell Clothes. This is a variant on number 7. So many people lose weight, and decide to keep those larger clothes ‘just in case’. Don’t do it! Sell off those big ole’ clothes and do some Christmas shopping with the money. Hopefully this will also motivate you to keep the weight off.
- Take Advantage of After Holiday Sales. If you are one of those people that goes insane over holiday decorations, then save your spending for when things are 75 percent off the week after Christmas. If you like to kick off the holiday season with decorating, then limit yourself to buying just one ornament or one small candle. Buy something small that is under ten dollars and will still bring cheer to your home.
- Remember Time Can Be More Important Than A Gift. Have people on your list that you have no idea what to buy for them? Then give them the gift of time. Maybe your uncle doesn’t need another drill set, but would love to be taken out to lunch and spend the afternoon watching football with you. Grandma probably doesn’t need more dish towels and candles but might just love if you baked a treat and maybe played some cards with her. Just write up a note stating what your gift of time will be, put it in a little box, and wrap it up. I am not saying you should write a note that says “your Christmas gift this year is 3 precious hours with ME”. But, maybe instead say “I would love to bring a special dessert/meal to you on (this date) and spend the day with you”. Make sure you follow through though!
The holidays are meant to be a special time to celebrate and spend time together as a family. It is not all about running around and stressing out about shopping. If you plan ahead and truly think about the people you are buying for, you will find that not only will gift giving be easier, but paying for it will be easier also.
(As a side note, you can get a jump start on next year’s Christmas fund by selling gift cards that you received this year, but will not use!)