The holiday season is rapidly approach here! And you know what that means, a lot of gifts and a lot of swiping of your credit cards. But just because the holiday season is here does not mean that you have to break the bank to enjoy it. Heck, there are many ways to enjoy the holidays frugally and keep the expenses down as low as possible. In this article, I wanted to share the five easy ways my wife and family keep our costs down and avoid unnecessary spending without sacrificing the spirit of the season. Time to check them out!
5 methods of saving
Warning: this article may include referral links
Method #1: Shop on Black Friday/Cyber Monday – Okay, so I’m a little late to the party here on this one considering both these days left. But I can’t think of the number of people who I talked to this week that were bragging that they had all of their holiday shopping done and they were able to take advantage of all the doorbusters, sales, and madness that is Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. There are your flashy deals that are highly advertised and there are the lot less popular deals that can be had if you are willing to look at page 20-25 of the store’s advertisement. Personally, I didn’t participate that much in the shopping holiday this year for a variety reasons, mainly because I didn’t feel like spending just to spend. So for this one, do as I say, not as I do.
Method #2: Change Your Holiday Gift Giving Tradition – My family actually did this a few years ago and it is a huge hit in our family. In the past, we would spend $25 per person for each member of the family present at holiday parties. Typically, we had 8-10 people to buy for each year, resulting in spending around $200-$250 in total each year. And that was just my side of the family! A few years back, after exchanging our gifts, we had the hard discussion and said “While we love giving each other gifts, we are all spending way too much money each year.” Finally, someone said what everyone else in the room was thinking. Within 10 minutes, we had devised a new holiday gift exchange tradition. Instead of buying everyone person a gift, we all randomly draw two names each year and keep the names confidential until the we exchange gifts (Like a mini Secret Santa). You buy a $25 gift for the first person and a $25 gift card for the other person. At the end, each person in our family will have received one gift and one gift card and we walk out of the holidays with only a $50 hole in our pocket instead of a $200 hole. It was our compromise to keep the spirit of holiday gift giving without breaking the bank. Disclaimer: My niece and nephew are excluded from this rule because let’s be honest, how could you not buy them a gift!
Method #3: Swagbucks, Ebates, and Other Cash Back Websites – One of the most fascinating things about this internet era is all of the different ways that you save money online. It always blows my mind how there is always a way to find a coupon code, discount, or can receive a discount simply by providing a company your email address. It is insane. On this website, we talk about a website Swagbucks a lot. Heck, life to date, Lanny has earned over $750 from this website that rewards you for answering surveys, watching videos, searching the web, etc., through their website versus Google, Bing, or another source. Well, Swagbucks (referral link here) also has a cash back feature similar to Ebates (referral link here) where you will receive cash back for shopping online through their website. My strategy to save the most/receive the highest percent cash back isn’t limited to exclusively using Swagbucks, Ebates, or another website (such as your credit card’s rewards portal). Rather, before making a purchase online, I spend two extra minutes, compare the cash back percentages for each website, and obviously select the highest one. At all times dfuring the holiday season, one of these cash backs website are running a promotion. Taking the time to find the best deal can result in some serious dollar savings.
Method #4: Exploit Your Credit Card Rewards – This is in the same spirit as Method #3. If you think online cash back websites are competing for your business, well then, welcome to the wonderful world of credit card rewards. My wife and I have four credit cards, and between all of our cards, we can get 5% cash back at Amazon, Wholesale Clubs, Department Stores, Drug Stores during the fourth quarter. AKA, anywhere that we could possibly buy a present from or shop at during the holiday season. While there isn’t the magical credit card that offers 5% cash back on everything you purchase, with some careful planning and an extra two minutes before we begin our shopping trip, I should not buy a gift from a store that is not offering a 5% discount. Lanny has a nice advantage with one of his credit cards too where he gets to select the 5% category each quarter. So he really can exploit the credit card rewards by making the right choice. These are just cash back rewards too and I’m sure there are credit cards that are offering insane travel perks as well for spending using their plastic. I’ve written in the past about simplifying my credit card usage in the past, but during these three months, the name of the game is getting as much cash back as possible!
Method #5: Hosting Parties versus Going Out – This is the first non-shopping method on this list and I couldn’t think of a better way to round out this article. Holidays are meant to be spent with friends, families, and those you love. You get the added bonus/benefit of seeing friends you don’t typically get to see because they back in town or they are taking a couple of weeks off of work. One way to save is to either host your friends or meet at their house vs. going to a bar or restaurant for dinner. This can especially result in huge cost savings on New Years Eve, where bars and restaurants are charging astronomical prices. For example, a six-pack of Bud Light at a bar is $18 (6 x $3 per beer – not including tips and taxes). However, picking up a six-pack at a grocery store and heading to a friend’s house will cost $7-$8. Plus, there are rebates, coupons, or apps such as Ibotta that offer sick discounts on alcohol and food that can push the cost through the floor. This is one example, and obviously beer and food will run you more depending on what you purchase and your tastes (I know, I know, I selected Bud Light in my example versus a more expensive craft beer), but staying in versus going out can result in some huge savings.
It is possible folks…the holiday season can be done frugally! Hopefully these methods can help as many of you save as much money as possible. There was one thing I noticed as I typed the article out and it reminded me of its importance. Plan, plan, and plan your shopping because the benefits and cost savings that result from planning ARE HUGE. I’ve written about this before as planning is a key piece of our strategy to keep our grocery bills as low as possible. Specifically though, with Methods #3 and #4, taking five minutes to figure out which credit card offers the most perks and which cash back website provides the greatest discount/coupon code can result in some serious dollar savings. Most importantly though, I hope your take away from this article isn’t that saving should get in the way of enjoying time with your family. That’s what the holiday season is all about, in my opinion.
What are your favorite savings hacks during the holiday season? How does your family keep the costs down while exchanging gifts? Do you even exchange gifts still? What other cash back websites or credit card reward hacks do you use? What are your thoughts on the five methods I listed above?