According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Association, the average American will spend around $950 during the holiday season. For many of us, this can make the holidays a financially stressful time! Here are a few tips to help prepare you to financially take on, and enjoy, the next holiday season without the stress.
1. Start saving for travel and gifts ahead of time
The best way to handle holiday spending is to have a solid plan. Look at everything you will do come November and December. Are you traveling? Who do you plan to buy gifts for?
Knowing what you will spend well ahead of time will allow you to save the money you need for the holidays and enjoy time with those you love. And if saving is a strength of yours, consider using a tool like Qapital to automate your savings throughout the year. This will allow you to give gifts without cutting into your retirement savings.
2. Track your finances so that you don't go into debt
Always keep track of your finances during the holidays. While the thrill of shopping for others, and yourself, can be great fun, it's so easy to fall into an endless spending trap.
By knowing where your finances stand, you'll be able to manage the holidays without running into any big surprises afterwards.
3. Sign up for a new credit card
Many credit cards have wonderful sign up incentives. From travel points, to gift cards, to cash back offers.
Make the most of your holiday spending by using it to meet the minimum spend necessary to receive one of these sign up bonuses! You may just be able to earn $500+ over the holidays – from a single credit card.
Just make sure that you don't fall into the trap of paying off the bill little by little after the holidays – or the extra interest rates will negate the value of the card in the first place.
If you are interested in earning a big sign up bonus from your holiday spending, check out the latest credit card signup bonuses here.
4. Buy gifts with discount gift cards
A great secret to buying gifts is with gift cards you purchased at a discount rate.
Instead of spending $25 on a $25 card purchased at a store, you can get the same $25 card online for $20. Definitely can't pass on a deal like that!
Sites like Card Cash have a plethora of discounted gift cards for everything from airlines, to Target, to McDonalds.
Using these gift cards to buy your holiday gifts (and travel) could easily save you 5-20%!
5. Use cashback shopping portals
You've probably heard of cashback shopping sites before, but they really are a great resource when doing your holiday shopping and travel planning.
Websites like Ebates and Swagbucks allow you to receive anywhere from 1-25% back on every purchase you make that originates from these sites. Plus, Swagbucks allows you to complete tasks and surveys for points that can be redeemed for additional gift cards.
6. Consider buying generic gifts on AliExpress
AliExpress is fast becoming the online shopping giant of the world. You can find all sorts of generic products on AliExpress – many of which are purchased and resold on Amazon.
Sometimes you can save up to 50% off of what you would pay on Amazon or at big department stores – for the exact same products.
If you do choose this as your online shopping service, purchase your gifts well ahead of time as the free shipping for a product coming from China can take as long as 30-45 days to arrive in the US.
If you need faster shipping, stick with Amazon – which also provides great prices and much faster shipping (even if the deals aren't quite as good as AliExpress).
7. Give from the heart, not the wallet
Homemade gifts go a long way for those receiving them.
A great place to check out what you can make for others is to research Pinterest. You can make something as simple as a hot cocoa set in a mason jar, or something as complex as an art piece made from sea glass.
Get creative and explore your crafty side this holiday season!
8. Consider gifts with long-term value
There is always someone who is difficult to shop for. That person who has everything, travels frequently, or just isn't a gift person. You have a several options for this type of individual.
First, look for gifts with long-term value that provide a rare experience or offer a chance to create amazing memories together. It turns out that experiences make us happier than things anyway.
Another option is to provide something that may be of value to their kids. For example, for a dad who doesn't need/want anything, why not use StockPile to buy $25 worth of Disney stock for his daughter, or $50 worth of Apple stock for his son? It's a unique gift idea that helps teach kids about investing – something many savvy fathers would appreciate.
Finally, knowledge is always a valuable gift. For someone who doesn't want to accumulate junk, an Audible membership can be the perfect answer.
Buying a gift that offers long-term value will strengthen your relationship, both now and in the future.
Although the holidays are an expensive time, there are plenty of actions you can take to minimize the impact on your wallet, while maximizing those relationships that you hold most dear.
With a little planning, you can make it through the holidays with far less financial stress – and far more joy.
Written by Jackie Lucarelli