The holiday season is fast approaching. There will be lots of fun, shopping, travelling, parties, eating, gifts giving, and in general, a lot of holiday spending. It is important to start budgeting and saving for the holidays early if you do not want to get overwhelmed with last-minute money stress and end up overspending.
Having a budget alone may not stop you from mixing up debt with all the holiday cheer. The stats show that about 77% of shoppers go over the budget they set for the holidays. To remain debt-free, you also need to stick to your budget.
Here are some tips that will make for an enjoyable and debt-free holiday season this year:
1. Create a Holiday Budget
Write down your shopping list and ensure you include the cost of gifts, food, drinks, travel, decorations, greeting cards, postage stamps, charitable giving, etc. Calculate how much money you need to match your planned spending.
Take a look at how much you already have to spend on your holiday budget and how much extra you need to save up. Is your budget achievable? Reasonable? Do you need to cut out some “fluff” to make your budget realistic? Adjust your budget as required and take note of your spending limit.
After you have arrived at a number, it is advisable to add in some extra room for unplanned expenses that may come up.
2. Start Saving Early
Now that you have a budget, it is time to build up your holiday fund. If you start saving early, you can watch the money grow effortlessly and be available when you need it.
Be practical. The best time to start saving towards the holidays is in January. However, if you have waited until now, there is still hope. If your holiday spending budget is $1,200 and you have 90 days or roughly 3 months to reach it, it means you need to save an average of $100 per week or $400 per month to reach your goal.
Automated savings apps like Mylo (for Canadians) and Digit and Qapital (for U.S. folks) are great for putting money aside without overthinking it. These apps save/invest your spare change and can also help you reach specific savings goals.
To make your money go the distance, consider saving your holiday fund using a high-interest savings account like Tangerine and EQ Bank (Canadians) or Ally Bank and Synchrony Bank (U.S.). Most of these online banks also offer automatic savings plans.
For additional savings tips, check out the:
- 12 Best Financial Apps for Automating Your Savings and Building Wealth
- 100 Easy Ways To Save Money When Your Income is Stagnant
3. Make Extra Money
In addition to savings, another way to reach your holiday spending goal without breaking the bank is to generate more income. Consider taking on an additional job or side gig. This may include pet-sitting through Rover, tutoring students online, selling used items, starting a blog, selling Christmas trees, becoming a mystery shopper, taking online paid surveys, etc.
Speaking of paid online surveys, here are some of the best-paid surveys you can do to earn money on the side:
- Swagbucks: Earn by taking surveys, shopping online, playing games, browsing the web, referring friends, and more. You also get a $5 welcome bonus.
- Survey Junkie CA and Survey Junkie U.S.: Take surveys
- Pinecone Research CA andPinecone Research U.S.: Make money completing surveys and testing products.
- Opinion Outpost CA and Opinion Outpost U.S.: Make money by completing surveys, testing products, and referring friends.
- Inbox Dollars (U.S.): Complete surveys, watch videos, and refer friends. You also get a $5 welcome bonus.
- Daily Rewards (Canada): Make money when you take online surveys, watch videos, visit websites, and refer friends. Plus a $5 welcome bonus.
You can also check out:
- 35+ Best Paid Survey Sites To Make Passive Income Easily
- The Top 15 Paid Survey Sites For Canadians To Make Money
4. Start Shopping Early
Do not wait until the last minute to start shopping for the best deals available and taking advantage of discounts. Some of the major sales events to look out for include Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You can also find some other great deals before these Thanksgiving weekend sales.
Before making purchases, do some comparison-shopping online to confirm the best available price. Stick to your shopping list and tick off items once they are purchased. If you find it difficult to stay disciplined with using a credit card, consider paying for all gift items with cash.
If you are planning to travel, book your flights and accommodations early. As the holidays draw closer, flight and hotel costs can increase rapidly. Use an app like Hopper to track airfare and hotel prices.
You should also take advantage of free shipping. Some online retailers offer free shipping to entice shoppers during the holiday period.
5. Save Money With DIY
Allowing the creative side of you to flourish can save you money during the holidays. Some of your friends and family will appreciate a well thought out homemade gift. You can try out baked goods, handmade gift cards, soaps, jewellery, perfumes, candies, jams, to name a few. Save money by buying ingredients and/or arts and crafts in bulk.
Check out 60 DIY Christmas gifts ideas here.
6. Maximize Your Rewards
If you are using a credit card for your holiday shopping, ensure it is the one that offers good rewards. Rewards, either cash back or points, add up and can save you as much as 5% on your spending. In addition to credit card rewards, there are several other online loyalty programs/apps that pay you every time you shop. Some of the more popular ones include:
- Ebates U.S. and Ebates CA: Get up to 40% in cash back. Receive a $10 (U.S.) or $5 (Canada) sign-up bonus.
- Drop (Canada and U.S.): Earn cash back from several major brands. Get a $5 bonus.
- Checkout 51 : Cashback offers as high as 30% and a $5 welcome bonus.
- Caddle (Canada): Earn cash back on your grocery shopping, and for completing surveys and referring friends.
- Paribus (U.S.): Get rewarded when shopping at 25+ major retailers, including Amazon, Walmart, Target, Gap, Old Navy, and more.
- TopCashback (U.S.): Get up to 100% cash back offer from over 4,380 stores.
- Mr.Rebates: Earn cash back on your online shopping.
- My Points: Earn rewards from over 1,900 online stores.
See some other budget apps and tools that can help you save money here.
7. Sell Your Clutter
The time before Christmas is a good period to get rid of your unwanted stuff. Clear out the clutter, free-up space, and make some money. Consider selling items via your local classifieds, eBay, Craigslist, Kijiji (Canada), Etsy, Amazon, etc.
Do not carry the clutter and junk into the New Year. The money you raise from selling your clutter can go a long way in helping you reach your holiday fund target.
8. Keep It Simple
The holidays should be all about catching up with friends and family, taking some time out to reflect on the year and your future, and putting a smile on the face of others. Don’t let last minute shopping, gift-giving, and the need to impress sabotage your peace of mind.
If you are unable to meet your holiday spending fund target, don’t fret. Sometimes, giving people your undivided attention and time is more than enough. In the midst of it all the festivities, don’t forget to lend a hand to those in dire need, the hungry, homeless, and those in need of comfort…
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