If there was ever a time to treat yourself (or your friends or your kids) it would be the remaining weeks of 2020. It’s been a rough year, and who doesn’t want a little pick-me-up? But as the days get shorter and your budgeting resolve starts to slip, it can be incredibly difficult to control the impulses we humans have to buy more stuff. We know it takes willpower to avoid overspending. (Trust us, we know.) But how do we keep our budget intact while COVID-19 keeps us at home with our phones and laptops serving us a constant stream of ads for adorable products and great deals we know our family members would just love?
To succeed at curbing spending during the most wonderful time of the year, you’ll need patience, a little creativity and open lines of communication with your closest friends and family, explains money-saving expert Andrea Woroch.
Discuss gift expectations early
No one wants to be a Grinch, Woroch says, but the reality is many of us are on a tight budget because of the pandemic and economic uncertainty. “Take a moment to discuss gift expectations with family and friends early before everyone starts shopping,” she says. “Perhaps you decide to only give gifts to children or set up a Secret Santa exchange so everyone only has to buy one gift.”
Create a separate holiday budget
Once you have a good idea of who’s on your list, and before you buy another strand of twinkle lights, close your laptop and grab a pen. Now write down every person’s name on a separate line along with a specific dollar amount you can spend on that person. Making a separate holiday budget is a must if you plan to keep spending in check, says Beverly Harzog, U.S. News & World Report’s credit card expert and consumer finance analyst.
If you already started buying gifts, stop where you are, Harzog says. Next, set the budget and write down the total amount you can spend without going into debt. To stay on track, use an app such as Santa’s Bag. Here’s the really important part: When you spend all the money you have set aside, you have to stop buying gifts. Your future self will thank you.
Rack up cash rewards faster
There are some other ways to increase your cash flow quickly. One is to stash away credit card rewards from now until late December to pay off holiday purchases. Another is to sign up for free cash. Many financial organizations are offering cash bonuses to new customers, Woroch says. For instance, the Chase Freedom card offers $200 back when you spend $500 in the first 3 months and HSBC offers $200 for opening a new checking account. That’s enough cash to cover gifts.
Or, you can double up on cash back earnings by using a free rebate app like Fetch Rewards which rewards you with free gift cards from retailers such as Target and Amazon for taking photos of grocery and store receipts. Save these gift cards for stocking stuffers or use them to offset other holiday purchases.
Uncover easy ways to make money from home
Cashing in on your clutter offers a double reward. You make your home more peaceful while earning a side income. Just make sure you maximize each sale by finding the right place to post your items, Woroch says. For example, sell women’s clothing at sites like Poshmark or Tradesy, offload furniture and home goods through local marketplaces such as OfferUp or Facebook Marketplace, get money back on your gently-used wedding dress via StillWhite.com. Get paid for an old smartphone through Decluttr.
If you have time for a side gig, you can earn up to $1,000 a month pet sitting through sites such as Rover.com or by teaching music lessons via LessonFace.com. Woroch suggests tucking away the extra cash in a separate account to use toward holiday purchases.
Trim non-essential spending for a few months
To free up extra money in your budget, find two recurring non-essential expenses you can temporarily put on hold such as a subscription box, salon services or even a video streaming service. Instead, try streaming videos for free through your local library’s digital platform.
Count your blessings at bedtime
It may seem simple, but reminding yourself there’s always something to be grateful for is a good way to boost your mood at night, when you might otherwise be tempted to make online purchases, says Maggie Baker, Ph.D., a psychologist, financial therapist and author. Writing out an actual list of things you are grateful for, especially right before bed, can be extremely satisfying. People make purchases because it gives them a little lift, she says, so practicing gratitude in a deliberate way can help enhance and amplify other positive aspects in your life.
MORE SMART HOLIDAY SPENDING TIPS FROM HERMONEY:
- Create an effective holiday budget — start early, be cutthroat.
- Incorporate these six painless ways to save money on gifts.
- Clear your head and master your holiday spending with these mind-over-money tips from behavioral economist Dan Ariely.
JOIN US: How are you handling the pressures of holiday spending? Join us in the private HerMoney Facebook group and share your money saving tips — and pick up a few new ones!