Dreading how expensive it will be to travel this year to visit friends and family for the holidays, let alone buy gifts and pay for the associated eating out or celebrating? According to a recent study, Americans plan to spend on average $1675 on gifts this holiday season. Unfortunately, they will also rack up about $1000 in debt if last year is any guide. This is waaayyy too much. Going into debt isn’t a great way to foster holiday cheer so if you want joy and peace, not stress and a financial hangover, follow these practices to get more bang for your buck this season.
#1 – Cash in those reward points
Americans love their credit cards. Make sure you are using your rewards card for purchases to earn miles and points towards flights and other rewards. But don’t forget to spend those points before they expire! This time of year is a great opportunity to cash in on free money – for yourself and others. Here’s how to save tons using your points.
Use points for others by redeeming them for:
- Gift cards – usually credit card rewards include dozens to choose from
- Gift hotel stays – give free nights and free stays to others
- Discounted wine subscriptions, etc. – buy presents with points, not money
Use your points for personal travel to cut down on costs by redeeming your points for:
- Plane tickets
- Hotel stays
- Car rentals
Why spend cash when you can put your earned reward points and miles to work?
#2 – Airbnb
Speaking of travel, you can drastically cut down your lodging and even eating costs by using Airbnb over pricey hotels. Airbnb allows you to book an entire house or a room in a house at prices usually far cheaper than hotels. You also tend to get far more amenities, free parking, more space, and sometimes even breakfast. You may have access to a kitchen which means you can save by cooking rather than going out or eating in pricey hotel restaurants.
Airbnb is global and you’ll find accommodation almost anywhere. I’ve used Airbnb for years and rarely spend more than $60 a night on accommodation (though you can, of course, spend more).
Sign up with Airbnb using this link and you will get $40 off your first home booking and $15 to use toward an experience worth $50 or more.
#3 – Make something
Gifts don’t always have to be pricey. You can go simple to luxury depending on your skill set – and still spend less money than going the traditional gift route.
Gift baked goods. This uses small money to make a lot of gifts, which is especially handy for the random people, colleagues and family in your life.
Make jewelry. Crafty? If you have some skill, gift jewelry like self-made earrings, necklaces and bracelets.
Thrifty redo. Give thrift store items new life by re-staining, repainting, or reworking them and give them away as gifts.
Master Crafter. Have carpentry skills? Make tables, benches, coffee tables and other furniture or decor for far cheaper than it would cost to buy them as gifts.
#4 – Gift exchange
Have a gazillion friend and relatives? Rather than buy for everyone, do a Secret Santa or group gift exchange where everyone is responsible for only one gift that is traded around the group. This works great for office situations or family gatherings. It’s also wonderful for avoiding costly gifts for adults while leaving open the option to buy gifts for the kiddos.
#5 – Cards over presents
Cards are a great way to save but show someone you’re thinking about them this season. Stop with the candles already. No one really wants a candle or bath bombs (though these are still fairly cheap gift alternatives). Send cards to relatives, friends or colleagues. It’s thoughtful and doesn’t make someone feel obliged to gift to you or embarrassed about not having a present for you either. They still feel touched and honored that you thought of them, especially in an office setting.
#6 – Gift Wine
Need cheap gifts for friends and family members or don’t know what to bring to a dinner party or social gathering? Unless no one drinks, a bottle of wine or a pack of beer is always appreciated! It doesn’t have to be pricey. Just your regular $5-$10 drinking wine or case of beer will do. Even replacing the usual $25 random gift with a relatively pricey $20+ wine or other liquor will usually impress them more than if you’d brought a gift – and set you up as cultured to boot.
Don’t Pile on the Debt This Year
Holidays are ultimately supposed to be about celebrating an event and spending time with loved ones. It shouldn’t be a race to see who can go into debt the fastest. Use these methods to save big this year while still enjoying the season. After all, you want to ring up festive cheer, not credit card bills that will take months to pay off. Go into this holiday season with a plan and you’ll come out with warm memories and not debt or financial stress.
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