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27 Ways to Save Money & Protect Your Credit during the Holidays

Updated on December 7, 2015
Holiday Shopping
Holiday Shopping

The holiday shopping season is here and if you are like most people you may be struggling to financially meet your budget during the month of December.

Here is a list of things that you can do to financially prepare for the Holidays while saving money and protecting your credit in the process:

  1. Decide how much you can spend. Make a list of all the people you plan to buy gifts for, as well as what you’d like to buy each person. Assign a dollar amount to each person on your gift list. Don’t forget the little extras, such as postage for Christmas cards to holiday party favors and home decorations to the cost of boarding a pet if you're traveling.

    Remember: Your credit, if managed properly, can give you access to big savings and the best interest rates and terms – all year round. So protect it all year long!

  2. Check Your Credit Before the Holidays. A single error on your credit report can take a major toll on your credit score. The last thing any of us want is to be declined at the register when trying to purchase gifts on a credit card. Before you start shopping, check your credit report to make sure there are no errors.

    You can get a free credit report each year from annualcreditreport.com

  3. Be Especially Vigilant about Identity Theft. Identity theft is prevalent around the holidays, so it’s smart to be especially careful with your credit cards during this time of year. Make sure you get your credit card back after making a purchase and don’t forget the receipt! When shopping online, look for security symbols on websites to make sure they’re safe, secure and use encryption to protect your personal financial information.

  4. Put yourself on your shopping list. It sounds selfish, but it's really smart. There are things you would not have bought for yourself that you end up, on impulse, buying for someone else. The best antidote is to give yourself a little splurge, too.

  5. Check it Twice. Then go over the list and decide how much you can spend on each. Don't have enough money to cover your holiday budget? Go through it again and cut names or amounts. Once you settle on a dollar amount for each person, thats it.

  6. Pay cash when possible. Pull out the money you set in your budget and only pay cash. Once the money is gone, the shopping is over. This also saves you money in the long run since you do not have to pay interest rates. If you only paid back the minimum amount and took several months to pay off your credit card debt you could end up paying double or triple the cost of the actual gift.

  7. Don’t get tempted by retail credit cards at Checkout. It may sound great to save 10 percent off your purchase today by opening a new credit card, however, that savings is paid right back through higher interest rates. These cards can ultimately cost you more and can negatively affect your credit score. Each time you open a new credit line your credit score takes a hit and by opening several cards in a short period of time can signal to creditors and lenders that you are a high risk.

  8. Check Your Interest Rates Before You Shop. Many credit cards hold a variable interest rate and without you even knowing it, your interest rates could go up – even if you’ve been responsible with your credit. That’s why it’s important to know your interest rate on each of the credit cards you might use when shopping during the holidays. If you don’t pay your credit card balances in full each month, charging your purchases to your lowest rate card is your best bet. You’ll save money in interest in the long-run, allowing you to pay down balances faster.

  9. Keep an Eye on Your Credit Limits. When searching for deals and trying to get everyone that “perfect” gift, it’s easy to forget that there is a limit to how much you can charge. By going over your limit, or even getting close to it, you can significantly hurt your credit score.

  10. Don’t Skip December’s Bill-Paying Duties. Whether you are distracted with all the holiday planning or financially strained, your budget does not excuse you from paying your bills on time.

    Remember: Approximately 35 percent of your credit score is based on how you pay your bills each month. By skipping one payment or being late will significantly damage your credit score. Pay at least the minimum payment on every bill.

  11. Allow enough time for all your holiday preparations. Who hasn't run out for a gift at the last minute and ended up paying top dollar? But whether you're shopping, baking or wrapping presents to send cross-country, budgeting your time can save you tons of money.

  12. Don't overlook the value of intangibles. Do you want to give someone a gift but don't have the money? If you're already baking cookies for your family, making an extra batch as a present for a neighbor is fairly economical. Want to help a friend who's got a lot on her plate? Offer to baby-sit, walk the dog or take an elderly relative for an outing. The cost is next to nothing, but the gift is priceless.

  13. Send e-cards. They're free -- or only cost a couple of dollars -- and don't require postage. Some even play music, making them a fun, free way to catch up with far-flung friends and family.

  14. DO NOT give in to “toy lust”. If your kids still believe in Santa, help them limit their Christmas list. You also do not have to buy them EVERY item on their list. When they get older this will help them set some financial boundaries and give them some choices.

  15. Regift. Do you still have that gift in the back of your closet or under your bathroom sink, then do not hesitate to regift it. Just keep in mind who you give it too because you don’t want to send a gift back to the person who gave it to you or may have helped pick it out! Some great regifting items can include bath kits, perfumes, DVDs, Books, Etc.

  16. Remember why we are celebrating. No matter what religion you are - it is a time for love, rejoicing, and spending time with loved ones.

  17. Buy in bulk if possible. Save time and money by buying in bulk. For example, ask the liquor store clerk to recommend an affordable bottle, get a case of it, and ask for a discount since you’re buying in bulk. This makes a great gift for couples, party hosts, bosses, etc.

  18. Search for coupons and coupon codes. Discount codes are easy to find, so there’s no excuse not to use them to your advantage. You can also check your local grocery store and online for manufacture coupons to save money on your holiday dinner. Before you buy you may also decide to google the item and the word coupon and see what you find.

  19. Purchase last year’s electronics models. This is great when you have children. Instead of buying the Playstation 4, check out the Playstation 3. Many stores sell refurbished versions as well that could save you hundreds of dollars. They also work as well as this year's version.

  20. Consider outlet stores. Outlet stores can be a great place to find steep discounts. Just be sure you know how to be a savvy shopper before venturing out.

  21. Ask for a refund if prices fall after you make a purchase. Believe it or not, it is OK to go back to a store and ask for a refund if the item you bought dropped significantly in price after you purchased it. Rule of thumb: Check the store's refund policy and use the length of time in their policy to determine if requesting a refund is inside the appropriate window of time.

  22. Look for free shipping. Many retailers offer free shipping with a minimum amount spent online. Friday, December 18th this year is FREE Shipping Day, when thousands of merchants offer no-cost shipping and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.

  23. Make a gift. Sometime a homemade touch is just what you need. Bake some holiday cookies and homemade bread, create a homemade video or cd, knit a scarf, hook rug, paint a coffee cup, or show off your creative skills with a holiday themed ornament or centerpiece.

  24. Don’t be afraid to ask for gift ideas. Not sure what to buy a family member or friend? Rather than overspending on something you’re not confident they’ll like, simply ask what’s on their wish lists. You could end up spending less money on something you know they’ll love.

    **For big families, or for members with an expensive item on their wish list than you may want to split the cost with another family member. Having several people chip in could be well worth it.

  25. Build gift baskets. Dollar stores like family dollar and the dollar tree is not only a great pace to find stocking stuffers. If you’re creative, you can create “theme” gifts for different people. For example you can stuff a holiday printed coffee cup with hot chocolate mix, a bag of marshmallows to give to your child's’ teacher. Have a movie-lover friend? Then buy a popcorn bucket, popcorn, cheap candy, and a $15 gift card from your local movie theater.

  26. Plan ahead for next year. After-holiday clearance sales are a great opportunity to stock up on holiday decorations for next year. Also check out the clearance rack. You will be surprised how cheap returned items can be because they are no longer in store.

  27. Set up a Savings Account. If you put money into a Christmas saving account for next year it could help you better plan and set a budget without hurting your savings or credit debt. If you open a savings account with only $100 and put $10 into it every week starting in January until thanksgiving week. That’s $550 you will have to spend next year. Even more if you use an interest bearing account.


BONUS TIP: Teach your child to give back. Now that your child will have all new toys, have your child clear out unwanted and unused items to donate to charity. Have them drop the items off at the nearest child’s hospital, Red Cross, or Salvation Army. Also volunteering at a local soup kitchen can help teach your child that the holidays are the time of giving!

When do you do your Holiday Shopping?

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