It’s hard to feel excited about the holidays when you have precious few dollars to spend on the festivities. Between the office Secret Santa and the family celebrations, things can add up to subtract serious cash from your wallet. If you worry your finances will cause you to turn into a Scrooge this year, check in with these five tips. They can help you make merry with the best of them, even on a small budget.
Starting your holiday shopping without getting organized first is like jumping into the deep end without knowing how to swim. You’re more likely to sink like a cement brick than keep your head above water.
Organizational tools like a budget and a list act as personal flotation devices during the expensive holidays.
You’ll know how much you can afford on the holidays when you use a budget to track your cash. If it reveals you have a lot less than you thought, a budget can also help you find more cash. When you look back through several months of financial statements, you’ll be able to catch patterns in your spending. Your budget will help bring attention to any bad spending habits that limit how much cash you have on gifts.
You should try limiting these spending habits before you rely on something like an online payday loan to cover the holidays. Online lenders like MoneyKey provide payday loans to people facing short-term financial emergencies — like essential repairs or unexpected bills they can’t cover on their own. Online payday loans aren’t meant to bolster your shopping budget, so you can spoil the people on your list. To find out whether one of these cash advances is right for your situation, you need to learn more about how these products work before you include them in your holiday budget.
A list is your budget’s best friend. Where one goes, the other should follow. That’s because a list will help you stick to the limits set by your budget. It does this by giving you something to focus on when you’re at the mall. You’re less likely to get overwhelmed by persuasive salespeople when you have a list in your hand.
It also requires some prep work away from the hectic shopping centers. You’ll have to sit down and think about what your loved ones want for the holidays and compare these items to your budget. You have time to brainstorm gifts that satisfy their needs and your finances.
Shop from discount sites
A common frustration of shoppers is the dreaded gift card. Your wallet is full of them, but they’re for a store you don’t need to shop from, or they represent a random assortment of denominations — each too small to make a huge difference to your bill. Raise.com hopes to rectify that with their online marketplace for gift cards. In 2014, Raise saved more than $10 million for its customers by letting users sell unused or partially used gift cards online for cash or another gift card. Though Raise makes a commission from each sale, it’s a great way to leverage unusable gift cards into money you can spend on the holidays.
Even if you don’t have a gift card to sell, you should check out their site. You can nab a perfectly good gift card for less than its face value.
Use coupon and rebate apps
One of the easiest ways to maximize the purchasing power of your dollar is by lowering the overall total you spend at the till. Though it sounds impossible, you can do exactly that when you download the right combination of shopping apps. This guide is a great initiation to this world.
Generally, these apps fall into the following categories:
- Consignment shops that offer gently used clothing and other items at discounted prices
- Rebate services that offer cash back on eligible purchases
- Coupon sites that knock 10–50% off your total
- Price comparison services that locate the lowest listed price on your item
Don’t pay for shipping
Shipping is one of the worst things about the holiday season. Most shipping companies jack their prices, applying the “shipping equivalent of Uber surge pricing” on parcels sent anytime between October and the New Year. You’re already paying more in rush fees to send Christmas cards and packages in the mail; you shouldn’t also have to pay more for ordering your gifts online.
Luckily, you won’t have to if you tailor your shopping experience properly. Use this list of retailers to find brands that offer free shipping even during the holidays. An Amazon Prime account is also a great way to get around the cost of last-minute shipping.
The holidays are supposed to be a time when you relax with the people you love — not a time when you stress out over your finances. They definitely shouldn’t leave you crying over a broken budget, and they won’t when you shop carefully to protect your finances from the season. When you take the time to use all available resources to help you shop, you can stretch your holiday dollars and celebrate the season without feeling like your wallet is broken.