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Even if you’re careful about your budget all year, there’s something about the holidays that makes you ‘spend, spend, spend.’ Between holiday parties and gift giving, it’s easy to find yourself broke come the New Year.  Fortunately, there are ways to keep your spending in check.

Set a budget and stick to it

Before you think about buying anything for anyone, make sure you get your monthly bills out of the way.  Buying your family nice gifts is cool but you have other priorities that come first.  Once you see how much money you have leftover, decide who’s on your “nice list” and assign each person a dollar amount.  Don’t forget to set aside a few bucks for cards, tape and wrapping paper too.  Choose gifts that are within your price range (no excuses) and keep an eye out for sales.

Shop at the right time

When it comes to scoring the best deals, timing is everything.  An easy way to save big is to sign up for deal alerts with apps like Slickdeals and BuyVia.  Just enter the product name or keyword and they’ll notify you whenever a new deal becomes available.  If you prefer to do the legwork yourself, search online for sneak peek ads for your favorite retailers. This will allow you to browse circulars for upcoming sales so you can plan your shopping trip accordingly.

Avoid shipping fees

Sometimes when you think you’ve found a good deal, the shipping fees wipe out any savings.  Fortunately, there are ways to work around it.  Most stores offer free shipping once you spend the required minimum.  Others will waive the fee if you choose in-store pickup.  Although you’ll still need to head to the store for your items, at least you won’t have to search the shelves yourself.  If neither option works for you, you can always wait until Free Shipping Day to place your order.  On December 14th, most stores will be offering free shipping with no minimum purchase.  You’ll be cutting it close but the participating retailers guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve.

Earn cashback rewards

If you’re not using cash back sites when you shop, you’re letting money slip through your fingers.  Sites like Rakuten, BeFrugal and TopCashback make it easy to earn while you shop.  Simply, start your shopping trip through them and they’ll pay you a percentage of whatever you spend.  Your earnings will vary depending on the store, the items being purchased and the site you choose.  So you obviously want to pick the one with the highest cashback percentage.  To pile on the savings, they also offer coupon codes which you can enter at checkout.

Shop with credit card rewards points

Have a credit card that earns rewards points?  Instead of opening your wallet, shop with your points instead.  We all know Amazon sells practically everything under the sun and now you can use your rewards points to pay for it all.  Just link your credit card to your Amazon account and they’ll show you how much money your points are worth.  At checkout, you’ll be able to apply the points towards your order.  Eligible rewards programs include:

  • Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Cards
  • Hilton Honors
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Amazon Prime Store Cards
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou Rewards
  • Cashback Bonus from Discover
  • Miles by Discover
  • Amazon Business American Express Card

Look for coupon codes

These days, it’s easier than ever to find discounts for almost anything.  Before you enter your payment information online, open another tab in your browser and search for coupon codes.  RetailMeNot is a great place to start.  Simply type the retailer’s name into their search bar and they’ll provide a list of available offers.  Can’t find a code that works?  If you have time to spare, leave the items in your cart for a few days.  Some stores send special coupon codes when they think you’ve abandoned your cart.

Apply for Christmas assistance programs

There’s a big difference between wanting to save a few bucks and not having any money to spare at all.  If you’re struggling just to get by, consider registering your family for a Christmas assistance program.  The Salvation Army, United Way Christmas Bureau and Toys for Tots are just a few organizations that provide toys and gifts to low-income families during the holidays.  Some charities even take it a step further by providing food and financial assistance to help ease the load.  Research what’s available and apply early to increase your chance of being selected.