No matter how warm and fuzzy the holiday season makes you feel, just admit it, it’s a pretty stressful time for your finances. Between travel, gift buying, eating out, and a packed social schedule, it’s hard to rein in spending at this time of year.
Which is exactly why we’ve rounded up 11 holiday hacks to save you cash this season. You can thank us in January.
1. Think of your credit card like a high-interest loan.
We’re not saying you need to pay cash every single time, but you should only ever buy items that you can immediately afford. While using a credit card can earn you points towards discounted travel and shopping, spending money you don’t have will accrue interest and late payment fees, and is a one-way ticket to scary levels of debt.
2. Don’t overgift.
You don’t have to give everyone multiple amazing presents to get your message across. Simple, thoughtful DIY gifts will be just as appreciated and even more special. If you do plan to battle the Christmas crowds and find great buys in stores, ask yourself, “When I add tax, shipping and credit card interest, is this still a great deal?” If the answer is no, put it back immediately and keep looking.
Similarly, if your shopping list of Christmas presents is getting longer and longer each year (those nieces and nephews just keep coming), sit down with the family and agree to pare back your presents.
Either cull the people you are responsible to buy for (and in turn happily tell them you’d rather not receive a gift), set a price limit on presents that you can afford, or switch the entire family to a Kris Kringle/Secret Santa style of gift giving, where everyone has just one present to purchase.
3. Put your TV service on hold.
While different cable companies have different policies, some will let you put your service on hold while you’re vacationing. This usually involves a small fee ($5 to $10) and will freeze service until you’re back home and ready for some quality downtime on the couch.
4. Save on travel.
If you’re planning on traveling during the holidays, you probably don’t have too much flexibility around dates. In most cases, it’s too late now to really nab an amazing flight or hotel deal, but you can still save in small ways.
If your bags are reaching the luggage limit, don’t fall into the trap of traveling with heavy gifts only to get overcharged at the terminal. Instead, organize in-store pick-up in your destination city (if the store is available there), or order online and have it delivered to where you will be staying.
5. Don’t over indulge yourself.
It’s all too easy to adopt a “one for you, one for me,” mentality when shopping for Christmas gifts. If there’s something you really want, drop hints to your nearest and dearest, and at the very least hold off until after the mandatory holiday spending has been paid off. At that point you can also reap the rewards of post-Christmas sales.
6. Put your gym membership on hold.
In the same way that cable companies often offer reduced fees when you’re away, gyms will usually let you put memberships on a reduced payment when you’re not using it. It’s worth calling your gym to ask the question, and remember to do so far in advance of when you leave, so that you don’t miss the deadline.
7. Cut the drinks bill.
Wine, beer, cider, and Champagne can really add up over the holidays, especially if you’re playing hostess and the drinks are on you. Cut the bill by preparing premixed cocktails and stretch every cent out further.
8. Remember you don’t really need a new outfit for every holiday party.
If you’re a fashion fan with a shortage of funds, finding a new outfit for every holiday party is hard. Instead, offer to swap clothes with friends to freshen up your look, minus the credit card regret.
9. Spread the responsibility.
Hosting a holiday party is fun, there’s no doubt about it, what’s not fun however, is being stuck with the food bill for a bunch of hungry friends and family members. Instead, ask everyone on your guest list to bring a plate and BYO alcohol.
10. Look out for sales on social media.
If there is a particular item that you have your eye on, make sure you’re following the retailers that stock it on social media, and also sign up to receive their marketing emails. It’s not uncommon for stores to announce sales just to their Facebook or Instagram followers, so stay plugged in!
11. Ditch ordering takeout.
Yes, it might be cold outside this time of year, and yes, you might be extremely busy, but that doesn’t mean you should pay extra to avoid picking up your food. Because you can get just about anything delivered these days, and at any time, it’s easy to fall into a trap of paying for convenience.
Be smart, and seriously consider whether your time needs to be spent elsewhere, before agreeing to part with a few extra dollars for delivery.