13 Steps to Save this Holiday Season

The season for shopping is fast approaching and you still haven’t opened your Spirit Financial Christmas Club account? Experts are predicting higher holiday spending this year according to recent reports by the Washington Post and CNBC, so it’s time to get cracking. Remember, it’s never too late to start saving. At Spirit Financial Credit Union, we want to make sure you’re getting the best deal before you fork over that hard earned cash. To help, we’re providing you with these 13 ways to get through the holidays with a little jingle left in your pocket.

1.     Set a realistic budget

How much can you afford to spend? We mean really afford to spend without re-mortgaging your house. Take a look at your finances and set a realistic number that you will stick to.

2.     Make a detailed list

Put down everything that will cost you money above your normal budget - gifts, decorations, food, beverages, and entertaining. Anything you foresee spending money on. Again, be realistic and be honest. If you go out with your friends every night in the days leading up to the holiday, mark it down.

3.     Time to scrub that list

It’s not going to be easy, but your budget will thank you. What items on the list can you do without this holiday season? Perhaps it’s one less night out with friends or cooking Christmas Eve dinner at home rather than going to your favorite restaurant. Could be a simple as having appetizers rather than a lobster dinner for your guests when entertaining. Are there some people on your gift list that can be eliminated? Do you really need to send a gift basket to the couple you met on vacation? Now that you’ve paired down your list, assign a portion of your budget to each item. This includes individual gifts, entertaining, charitable donations, etc. Remember, all of the little things add up, so be sure to include them. Once you’ve signed a realistic amount to everything, you will need to stick with it.

4.     Time to cut back a bit more

Ok, you’re panicked, because your way over the budget you set when you look at the list. Where else can you save? Are you exchanging gifts with all of the other moms at school or with your all of your co-workers? Are you buying gifts for everyone in your entire family, including the adults? If you’re over budget, everyone else probably is as well. Suggest a Secret Santa exchange instead of buying for everyone or limit gifts to just the kids. Is your charitable giving putting you over your limit? There are other ways to donate to a charity, such as donating your time instead of money. Think about it, volunteering rather than handing over a check will make you feel great and is much more about what the holiday season is all about. Can you combine your favorite charities with your gift giving? Giving a donation to a charity in someone else’s name is a great a great gift that can kill two birds with one stone.

5.     Start saving

So we’ve established above that you forgot to open your Spirit Christmas Club, so you have no money saved. Well, it’s not too late, start putting money away today.

6.     Plan out your shopping

You know many of the items you need to buy, so now you want to look for the best price. Start researching and comparing prices online now to see which retailers seem to be offering the best deals. It’s never too early to start shopping if you come across the right gift at the right price.

7.     Track your spending

It’s as simple as that. Why have a budget if you’re not going to keep track of what you’re spending.

8.     Take advantage of credit card points

Do you have points built up on a reward credit card that can be used to purchase gift cards or other items. Many people don’t ever realize they have enough points to purchase some valuable items. This might be a way to put a cost-free dent into part of that gift list.

9.     Get techy with your holiday shopping

There are some great apps out there that will help you find the best discounts, compare prices, get valuable coupons and even get cash back based on spending. Here is a list of those we really like:

·      SnipSnap

·      Yowza

·      CardStar

·      CouponSherpa

·      ShopKick

·      Checkout51

·      Yipit

·      Ibotta

·      The Amazon App

·      Ebates

·      RetailMeNot

·      Gift Card Granny

·      Shopathome

10.  Shop the big 3

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are three days to find great deals on your holiday gifts. Take advantage of the apps above to find the best deals and check out blackfriday.com for an overview of the best bargains.

11.  Save on the wrap

Can’t pass up that shiny, expensive gift wrap? Walk away from the bling! Head to the dollar store and buy something less expensive, or just buy some brown kraft wrapping paper and dress it up with some pretty ribbon.

12.  Run out of money before all of your gifts are bought?

You can always give the gift of time. A night babysitting for your sister’s children so she can enjoy a date night, a home cooked meal for your child’s teacher, a week of snow shoveling for your neighbor – these gifts would be most welcome and heartfelt. After all, it’s not all about the money; it’s about the thought.

13.  Get creative with your family holiday activities

Everything you do doesn’t have to cost money. Drive around the neighborhood to enjoy the Christmas lights, plan a cookie-baking party, make homemade decorations for your tree, or go caroling to get your neighbors in the holiday spirit!

 

We hope these suggestions help you find some great deals and spend a bit less this holiday season. If you find yourself in a real jam and just can’t seem to find any extra in your budget, you may want to consider a Spirit Financial no annual fee VISA credit card or a personal loan to help you through the holiday season. Follow us on social media and our blog for more helpful tips each week.