Have you completed your Christmas shopping yet, or are you still scrambling to get it all done? If you’ve completed it, did you manage to stay within budget? If you’re like most Americans, the answer is no. That means come January, you’ll go out to get the mail every day with fear in your heart. When you open your credit card bill, well, it’ll be too late and the damage will be done. You may be paying for your holiday gift giving for months to come.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
There are a number of strategies you can use to reduce your out-of-pocket expenditures.
Use Deal Sites Like Chippmunk
You likely know that there are many deal sites you can use to save money on your online purchases. One that you may not have heard about but is worth knowing about is Chippmunk.
What makes Chippmunk different from other deal sites? Simply put, Chippmunk wants to work within your budget. Let’s say that you want to spend $50 for someone, and you want to shop at Target. Chippmunk asks you how much you want to spend and then what store you want to shop at or what kind of product you want to buy. Then it pulls up coupons specifically for your parameters.
For instance, when you input a $50 budget for Target, you’ll likely see these coupons:
- Free shipping on $50+ orders
- Save 60% off clearance items
- BOGO 60% off clothing, shoes, and accessories
With Chippmunk, there’s no need to rack up charges you won’t be able to pay right away. Instead, you’ll be able to find great coupons for every price range and store that you need to shop at.
Take Advantage of Free Money
Free money sounds too good to be true, but in this case, it’s not. You could use a search engine like Swagbucks to earn free money. When you search the internet, occasionally you’ll be rewarded with points called “SB” (usually ten or so, but sometimes as many as 50 or more). You can cash in 2,500 SB points for a $25 Amazon gift card.
Obviously, this strategy is too late for this year, but if you start now, you’ll easily be able to earn $50 to $100 in gift cards for next year.
Another alternative is to use a credit card that offers rewards points. If you pay most of your expenses by credit card and you save all of the rewards throughout the year, you could have $200 or more in gift cards to pay for your holiday gifts.
You don’t want to feel like Scrooge at the holidays, but you also don’t want to be overwhelmed with holiday bills come January. Instead, set a budget for how much you want to spend. Then, when you shop, use discount codes if buying online and use the money from sites like Swagbucks and your credit card rewards. You’ll spend very little out of pocket, and you’ll still have a wonderful time giving gifts.
What other strategies do you use to keep more money in your pocket during this time of year?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here and here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.