I love giving gifts. I can have all of my Christmas shopping finished well before October because I see things everywhere that would make those I love happy. You would think this would save money during the holidays but you would be wrong. I get caught up in the fun and frenzy of sales and shiny new things and end up buying twice or three times what I can afford, just to “add that something special.” You may be the same, or you may just be struggling to get what you need without having to mortgage the dog, either way after some financial disasters of my own I have put together some tips for us all to save our wallets and our sanity.
Money Saving Websites
- Group Couponing – I was so resistant to these it made my friends crazy. They were eating out and getting all sorts of perks for such deep discounts they thought I was foolish to not join in. I was. It was a manicure/pedicure that finally won me over and I have never looked back. Sites like LivingSocial.com, Groupon.com and EverSave.com are offering prices you can’t even imagine on quality products and services. Vacations both near and far, pub crawls, kayak trips and painting classes for the adventurous, bowling parties and movie tickets for families, wine tastings, dining and theater nights for couples, it’s all out there right along with electronics, household items, purses and more. Using this as a resource for gift giving can save money during the holidays and give you some unique gift ideas.
- Discounted Gift Cards – There are two great ways to leverage sites like PlasticJungle.com to save money during the holidays. You can purchase gift cards for favorite restaurants and stores at a discounted rate and give those cards directly as gifts, or you can purchase the cards to use for your own holiday shopping. The depth of the discount depends on the demand for the card so look around for places you know you will find useful gifts and try to get the best deal possible. You can also trade cards you have but will never use for something better suited to your needs.
Used – Like New but Money Saving
Second hand shops can be wonderful ways to save money during the holidays. You can find excellent jewelry and electronics for pricing you’ll never find retail and in some stores you’ll even find they progressively lower prices as time passes. If the pricing structure isn’t listed on the item it’s okay to ask if they have a mark down schedule and try to be the first to get to the item when it reaches your ideal price. Books can be a great used gift as well, many people who are true book lovers prefer the look and feel of an old, well-loved book to that of a new one. I once had a professor who requested any time he was given a gift it be an inexpensive, used book, preferably inscribed to a previous owner with a new inscription to him below it. This may not be for everyone but the more sentimental of your social circle would likely be touched at such a gift.
Cash Back Credit Cards and Point System Charge Cards
You’re thinking I’m nuts, I can tell. Credit cards and saving money during the holidays are usually mutually exclusive but if you are managing your budget correctly and being honest with yourself about how much you can spend and when you can pay it off you can actually use your credit or charge card like a coupon.
- Cash back credit cards. Purchase only what you would were you using cash and keep that cash aside along with your normal payment. Before the statement closing date, or on the due date pay both what you have newly purchased whether it has shown up on your statement yet or not and your regular payment. You have not added anything to your card but you are earning cash back on what you spent, usually somewhere between 1 and 5 percent of your total purchases. It will be as if you paid in cash, but showed them your credit card to receive a discount.
- Point System Charge Cards. Charge cards differ from credit cards in that the balance must be paid in full every month. If you have one that offers points for every purchase think of it as a debit card use it for everything, even morning coffee but never more than you would cash. Pay completely and on time, every time or the system falls apart. At the end of the year you will find you’ve accumulated so many points you could do all of your holiday shopping completely free! I promise there’s no better way to save money during the holidays than shopping with free money.