There are several things we can be doing today to avoid holiday debt later, long after the holiday season has ended.
While it may seem ludicrous to think about the holidays already, it’s actually smart to get started now.
That’s why it’s important to start preparing for the holidays as soon as possible.
The holiday season is upon us and with that comes a lot of spending on gifts, parties, travel, etc.
This year, you can avoid debt by planning ahead for your holiday spending.
I know that most of us would rather not think about the holiday shopping season just yet, however taking some time to educate yourself now will help you have a successful holiday without going into debt.
Here are some things to do now to avoid holiday debt later:
Set up an automatic savings plan.
If you don’t have one yet, set up an automatic savings plan where you put money into a separate account each month (or even better, every paycheck) to be used only for your holiday expenses.
You’ll feel less stressed out knowing that you’re not going to spend all of your hard-earned cash in one go.
Sell your stuff
While spring may be synonymous with cleaning, fall is also a good time to declutter and sell anything you no longer want especially since you can stash the earning away for gift shopping.
Large items like furniture is best sold through Craigslist or via local Facebook buy-sell-trade groups.
Clothing can be sold at local consignment shops or online at RecycleYourFashions.com or thredUp.com.
Finally, you can sell old gadgets for cash through Gazelle.com.
If you’re planning to do any flying over the holidays, it’s wise to start looking into flights now.
Typically, the sweet spot for the best airfare deals is six to four weeks before your desired departure date, but the holidays are another animal.
As you begin researching, use the “flexible date” feature to compare rates among departure and return dates.
This will help you pinpoint the cheapest dates to fly and lock in your time-off request early.
Don’t forget to track prices using Kayak.com; this way, if you notice the flight price drop after you book, you can request a credit from the airline.
Earn Free Amazon Gift Cards
Swagbucks gives you many ways to earn points by doing things you already do online.
Once you earn enough points, you can use them to redeem gift cards from Amazon, Target, Starbucks, eBay, Walmart, Sam’s Club, or Uber.
If you’re looking for ways that you can earn points at Swagbucks quickly and easily, here are seven you can try.
Buy discount gift cards
In addition to being the most highly-requested gift for seven years in a row, gift cards can actually save you money when you buy them at a discount.
Websites like GiftCardGranny.com have thousands of gift cards to popular retailers, with savings like 25-percent off Starbucks gift cards.
You can also sell any unwanted gift cards for cash, and get up to 92 percent of the card’s value back to put toward your holiday shopping budget.
Eliminate excess spending
Whether it’s weekly takeout, weekend spa appointments or too many morning lattes, there is always room in your budget to cut back and boost your holiday savings.
Review your spending over the past several months and identify areas where you can cut back.
Keep in mind, some of the excess purchases you eliminate now doesn’t have to be forever.
Anticipate hidden costs
Budgeting for gifts and travel is a no-brainer, but often we forget about the hidden costs of the holidays.
Things like postage for holiday greetings, White Elephant gifts for corporate parties, or tips for all the helpers in your life.
It’s these expenses that send our budgets in the red, so prepare for them now to avoid surprises.
Holiday packaging can be purchased on the cheap from dollar stores, while White Elephant gifts can be a re-gift from something you already own.
Now is a great time to look into earning extra cash.
This will help you avoid living on Ramen Noodles until after the holidays, plus it might expand into a legitimate gig beyond the holiday season.
Sites like eLance help you find companies in need of freelancers, while TaskRabbit connects you with people who need assistance with small tasks like grocery shopping, dog walking or handy work.
If you have the flexibility, a part-time retail job not only offers extra cash but also an employee discount for gifts.
Use your rewards
Between social events, back to school shopping and family getaways, you likely racked up quite a few points on your credit card over the summer.
Use those points to offset your holiday spending by turning them into gift cards.
You can give these cards as gifts or use them to pay for gifts at specific stores.
Sometimes, credit card companies will offer these reward gift cards at a discount, so keep your eyes peeled for these deals.
Start scouting and collecting gifts
Now is a good time to start scouting for gifts and note their selling price.
If you find a really good deal right now, buy it!
Picking up a few gifts over the course of two to three months will limit the financial strain you may experience when buying multiple presents during the peak shopping season.
If you’re researching online, be sure to look for coupon codes to score discounts or free shipping.
Research layaway thoroughly
The main reason for early holiday shopping ads is to promote retailer layaway programs.
While putting coveted items on hold and paying them off over time seems like a good strategy, you need to be careful about the program’s fees.
Startup and service fees can range from $5 to $10, and if you need to cancel for any reason, there’s a fee for that, too.
Stores like Walmart do not offer layaway for online items, nor do they price match in-store items with their online prices, meaning you could pay more for a gift than you need to.
Lastly, don’t forget to have fun!
The holidays should be enjoyable, not stressful.
So enjoy yourself, relax, and remember to take care of yourself.