How to Prepare for Holiday Spending

Every year it hits me as Halloween passes,that the holidays have arrived! Thanksgiving, Christmas then New Years.  Tis the season for increased spending.  I don’t just mean gifts either.  Let’s take a look at some of the items that really hit our budgets hard the last few months of the year and then make a plan for how to earn some money while we spend it.

5 Items that Hit the Budget Hard Around the Holidays

  1. Buying Extra Groceries for Holiday meals
  2. Gifts, Gifts, Gifts
  3. Holiday Travel to spend time with family or friends
  4. Decorations
  5. Extra Activities like concerts or parties

Yep, all of those items can put a real drain on your wallet.  Now lets dig into how we can avoid, offset or earn from those expenditures by formulating a plan NOW.

Extra Groceries

You may host or attend several holiday parties, dinners or potlucks between Halloween and New Years.  Let’s look at how you can cut those costs and earn some cash back.

  • Make a List and avoid impulse buys.  One way our spending soars over the holidays is by buying things we don’t really need while at the store.
  • Have your groceries delivered to avoid the hassle of crowded stores AND the the temptation of buying extra items.
  • Use Coupons and watch the store Circulars for sales. If you make your list early, you will have more opportunity to find ingredients on sale before you need them.
  • Use Store’s Loyalty App for digital coupons, members only deals and to earn store rewards.
  • Use a Rebate App like Ibotta, Fetch or Check Out 51 to earn points/cash from all your grocery receipts by scanning them on their app.
  • Combine as many of these steps as possible to maximize your savings.

 

Decorations

Everyone loves the look of a festively decorated house or well decorated get together.  But buying a ton of decorations can get pretty pricey.  Here are a few tips to cut those costs down.

  • Make some DIY decorations that you find on Pinterest, YouTube or in the local Craft Store brochures.  Start making them early so they are ready to go when the season gets cracking.
  • If your decorations need a refresh, buy a few new items on clearance at the end of the season.  You can often get things discounted by 50-75% off beginning the day after the holiday.  You can stock up on gift wrap supplies then too!  It’s always fun to open your storage totes the following year and find your “new” end of season treasures that you forgot you bought.
  • Get the app for your local craft store.  It might offer bonus deals or coupons that save you money on decorations or DIY supplies.
  • Order items online starting from a Rebate app like Ibotta or Rakuten (Ebates) to earn cash back on your purchases.
  • Keep it Simple.  Use just a few decorations that really express the holiday feeling.  Put candles or ornaments with some pine branches on silver or gold charger plates.  Use runners, placemats, blankets and throw pillows to add colors and patterns to a room.  Plus all of those items can be easily stored for future years use.

 

Extra Parties and Activities

  • You don’t have to say yes to every invitation or offer.  Choose the events most meaningful to you in order to avoid stretching yourself too thin and spending too much.
  • If you will be attending a party, consider if you will need to bring a Passing Dish, Beverages or a Hostess Gift?  Plan ahead, make a list and try to gather the items you need while they are on sale, use coupons or look for deals.
  • Think you will need a new holiday outfit?  First, can you refresh an old outfit by adding a few new and inexpensive accessories.  Can you pick something up at the Resale shop?  If not, set a budget!  Watch for sales and be sure to pay with a credit card that gets you cash back or points.
  • If you are going to holiday shows or concerts, create a budget that includes the cost of the tickets, parking/transportation and if needed dining.  Look for ways to save money on event costs by using sites like Groupon or Tickets at Work.
  • Take advantage of any happy hour deals available by grabbing food/drinks early or late after the event is over. Get a drink and share an appetizer instead of doing full meals to cut down on your dining costs.
  • See if  you have enough rebates earned on Ibotta or Fetch to cash out for a restaurant gift card to apply toward your dining bill.  If not make sure to pay with a card that gets you the best return on dining.
  • Buy dining gift cards during the year when they are on a deal and save them to use over the holidays.  Some chain restaurants offer Buy a Gift Card get a Bonus Gift Card deals to promote sales.

 

Holiday Travel to spend time with family or friends

Over the river and through the woods…..most people spend the holidays with other people.  Sometimes your family or friends are nearby, but often times you will have to do a little traveling.  First decision, will you be driving or flying?

Flying

Flying tends to be pretty pricey around the holidays.  If you know you will be traveling by air for the holidays, start watching for airfare sales in the early fall.  Be mindful of any blackout dates on fares during holiday periods.

Make sure to pay with a credit card that gives you 1) the best extra travel delay coverage  because flights are often cancelled or delayed this time of year,  and 2) earns you some points. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.  Put a few snacks in your bag in case you encounter any delays.  It doesn’t hurt to have a Plan B in case of bad weather delays or flight cancellations.

Don’t forget to figure in any additional fees like checked bags and boarding position when comparing airfare prices.  If you do need to travel with much luggage, remember a lot of airlines charge for those checked bags, so consider Southwest who lets you check 2 bags free.  You may also get a free checked bag if you have an airline credit card or Tier status with their loyalty program.

Driving

If you will be driving, you may want to use an app like Gas Buddy to find the best prices for fuel on your trip.  You can also pay with a credit card like the American Express Hilton Surpass that offers 6x points on fuel purchases or watch for Offers on your credit cards website.  You may be able to find some fuel purchase offers that you can add to your card that will give you extra points or statement credits for your fuel purchases.  Pay attention to 1) the date range the offer is available for, 2) which gas stations apply and 3) if there is a maximum number of gallons or uses for that offer.

Consider if you will need to book a hotel for your travel.  Hotels tend to book up early around the holidays so watch for special offers from any hotels you have loyalty memberships with in the fall.  Rates tend to be higher at peak times like holidays, so it might be a good time to cash in some points or rewards if you have them.  If you don’t have points, make sure to book Refundable Room Rates, just in case you encounter bad weather or other issues that would require you to cancel your reservation.

If you need a hotel but don’t have loyalty with any brands 1) why? it doesn’t cost anything and 2) there may also be hotel offers on your credit cards website that you can add to your card to get a statement credit.  If you are booking a hotel and not using a brand specific credit card, use one that gives you the best points return and trip protection options.

You may also be able to get some great travel deals around Black Friday.  Make sure to use a portal like Rakuten (Ebates) or Ibotta when making reservations to take advantage of additional rebates.

 

Gifts, Gifts, Gifts

  • SET A TOTAL BUDGET! This is very important to keep from overspending during the holidays.  We all want to be generous and get the perfect gifts, but we don’t want huge bills that weigh us down come January.
  • Figure into your budget anyone that you tend to tip over the holidays like the Garbage Person, Mail Person, Salon, etc.
  • Seriously….Make a list and check it twice! Be sure to include everyone you will be buying gifts for and gifts for exchanges you will participate in.  Don’t forget Teacher gifts, etc.
  • Create your gift list early so that you can watch for the best deals on big ticket items (which is usually between Black Friday and Cyber Monday).
  • USE PORTALS!   This is the perfect time to get big rebates back from portals like Rakuten (Ebates), Ibotta and Fetch.  Watch for bonus days that offer a higher percentage back.  Last year my Rakuten (Ebates) rebate check for the last quarter was well over $100.
  • Pay attention to sales at your local stores as well and watch for extra discounts via their digital coupons.  Typically my local mega store runs “Santa Bucks” twice around the holiday.  They are coupons you can use toward the purchase of any item over a certain price (even if it is on sale).  If you can pair a coupon with a sale on a big ticket item, you can really get a good deal.
  • Always try to get free shipping on anything you order online.  Most stores offer free shipping on online orders between Black Friday and December 15th.  Some will offer a few days of free expedited shipping right before Christmas for another big sales push. Place online orders with enough time for them to arrive before you will need the gift.  That means allowing a little extra time because the delivery services are crazy over the holidays.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for mailers that include coupons for freebies or discounts.
  • I like to have a few random items on hand just in case I accidentally missed someone on my list.  Have them wrapped and ready to go….just in case.
  • Use your credit cards paying attention to the best card return for each purchase.  Make sure to only spend what you can pay when the bill comes.  Carrying a balance that gets an interest charge negates any savings you got with points or discounts.
  • Don’t wrap your gifts too early in case you see a better price during the season and want to return/exchange the item.  Keep all your receipts for holiday purchases in an envelope together until you are sure you wont need them for any returns.
  • I know it’s hard to stop shopping during the holidays, but if you buy gifts early don’t keep shopping for more!  When you have all the gifts you need, STOP!

 

Don’t Wait, Start Now!

You are probably thinking about waiting until you are heading to the store to sign up for some of these great tools.  Don’t wait!  Sign up now before things get hectic.  It’s so much easier to take a few minutes before your schedule gets really popping to set up your accounts, make your lists and perhaps even set a budget.

Remember that Cash, Check and Debit Card purchases don’t usually score you any return for your money spent.  Choose a credit card that has the highest bonus category for whatever item you are purchasing or when you are dining out.  Those points will add up to something nice for you down the road.  Don’t forget that some credit cards also offer purchase protection for those big items on your list.

 

If you are planning on signing up for any new Rebate Apps like Fetch, Ibotta or Rakuten (Ebates), please use my Referral link found on this Money Saving Links page.  Then we will both get a bonus when you sign up and complete the initial requirements (usually scan 1st receipt or make 1 purchase using the app).  

Thanks!

 

 

Wow, that was a lot!  Just do as many of these things as you can and you will be able to stretch your money further and keep your holiday spending in control!