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With sweltering temperatures and summer vacations on your mind, I’m sure the last thing you want to think about is Christmas. It seems so far away, but as always happens, it will be here before we know it, and we’ll be scrambling to get ready.
As I discussed last Christmas with my Under $25 Gift Guide series, my husband and I made a conscious effort to scale back last year. We definitely made progress, but even with cutting back, Christmas is still a big expense for us. I started thinking of ways to spread out the costs and came up with five ways to save for Christmas all year long. I’ve been implementing my plan all year and and I’m seeing real progress. I’m excited to share with you the tips and ticks I use to save for Christmas. I hope it helps you to start your own savings.
These tips don’t have to be used for just Christmas either. You can use these steps for any big expense: a Disney vacation, home improvement project, new computer – whatever you have your eye on that might be a bit of stretch for your finances. With a bit of time and some dedication, you can make a sizable dent toward your biggest expenses.
How many times have you thought of a great gift idea for someone, only to forget it later? I used to do this all the time. Now, whenever I get an idea, I add it to an Amazon wish list. I have lists for my kids and husband, and add things to them throughout the year. Where the savings come in is that you can set alerts for when items on your wish list go on sale. This way, when you see a deal, you can snatch it up. You may end up storing your gifts for a few months, but that’s a small price to pay for big savings!
Make Your Money Work For You
I’m sure you’re familiar with the idea of credit card reward programs. Programs vary widely, but essentially, you get points or a percentage of cash back when you use your credit card. I have an American Express Blue card, which gives me points every time I use it. My card is linked to my Amazon account so I have the ability to cash in my points on my Amazon purchases. Before this year, I would cash in my points randomly. Now, I’m saving my points all year long so when it’s time to start purchasing Christmas presents, I will have enough so I can buy several presents with no out of pocket expenses.
To really rack in the savings for Christmas, I am trying to transition to using my credit card for nearly all of my expenses. The trick with this though is to pay off the balance every month. You DO NOT want to get into credit card debt while trying to save for Christmas!
Hunt for Rebates
I say “hunt” but it’s really not hard to get cash back on everyday purchases. I’ve talked about grocery rebate programs before, so I won’t go into length here.
Briefly, these programs give you cashback on items you already buy at the grocery store. Set up your account, scroll through the items and select the ones you plan on buying. Then head out to the grocery store to make your purchases. Once you get home, take a picture of your receipt and that’s it! Cash back!
My favorite programs are Ibotta (with a sweet $10 welcome bonus!), Checkout51, and SavingsStar. All are a great way to save for Christmas throughout the year. Rather than cashing out as soon as I reach the minimum threshold, I’m holding my savings until November when I’m ready to start Christmas shopping. So far, I have over $50 saved up. That’s at least a few toys for the kids!
Another great rebate program is Ebates. Whenever you’re going to shop online go to Ebates first to see if the store offers cash back. If it does, simply open a shopping trip and do your shopping as usual. You’ll get a percentage of your purchase price back. Once you earn more than $5, you will get a “Big Fat Check.” I love seeing the Ebates envelope in my mailbox (though you can also get your cash back via PayPal). Ebates has a huge number of stores that you’ll likely be familiar with and shop at. If you’re going to shop anyway, you might as well get cash back and use that to save for Christmas!
Use Found Money
I don’t do a formal budget but I do find it useful to take stock of my expenses every now and then. It’s hard to save if you don’t know where your money is going! I recently read a report saying that Americans vastly underestimate how much they spend on subscriptions each month. Take a moment to think about your recurring monthly expenses, besides paying your debt and utilities: streaming services, magazines, gym memberships, box subscriptions, meal services, cloud storage…the list goes on and on! Do you use all of those subscriptions? Do you enjoy them? If not, it’s time to part ways. Cancel those subscriptions that don’t add value to your life, and use your monthly savings to save for Christmas. This is also a great way to throw more money at your debt!
Did you get a raise recently? Congrats! Take a look at your paycheck to see how much more you’re getting and use the extra to save for Christmas. Throw the funds in your savings account or even create a separate bank account. This is another way to pay down debt faster. I paid my car and student loans off at least two years early doing this. Every time I got a raise, I would put the excess toward my debt. It makes a big difference!
I wish I had more hours in the day to earn extra income. There are so many ways to earn money on the side. But with two kids, a full time job, this blog, and wanting to see my husband every now and then, I just haven’t figured out how to make it all work. What has worked for me though is survey sites.
Now, let me be honest. I have a love-hate relationship with survey sites. Actually, it might be more of a hate relationship. It seems more often than not, I answer tons of questions, only to not qualify. There goes ten minutes of my life. I’d much rather spend that time blogging or doing something else productive. But, they can be a good way to save for Christmas. While you’re watching TV, waiting at the doctor’s office, or otherwise have downtime, complete a survey, click on an email to earn points, or watch videos. It may not be a windfall, but it does add up over time.
One suggestion: if you don’t already have one, create a separate email account for your survey sites. The volume of email can get overwhelming so you’ll want to keep that out of your main inbox. And make sure the sites are legit and won’t sell your information or spam you constantly. Here are some of the sites I’ve had success with:
MyPoints: I think I was one of the early adopters of MyPoints. What I like about it is that they send me several emails throughout the day that I can click on and automatically earn five points. Additionally, you can earn points through surveys, shopping, and watching videos. Redeem the points you earn for giftcards to major retailers. I’ll redeem my points for an Amazon gift card or other stores I know I’ll buy Christmas presents at.
InboxDollars: InboxDollars is pretty much identical to MyPoints in the methods they offer to earn, but instead of points, you earn cash. It does come out ahead though because they give you a $5 welcome bonus for signing up, which is a great way to jump start your savings. Another nice thing about InboxDollars is their videos. Set them up in the background while you’re on your computer and earn while you shop, pay bills online, or play games!
Swagbucks: I just recently got involved with Swagbucks so I don’t have a lot of experience with it, but it’s the same concept as the others: read emails, complete surveys, watch videos. You earn “swagbucks” which can then be redeemed for gift cards.
You’re not going to make a killing on these points sites, but again, every bit helps!
Little Steps, Big Savings
With these tricks, I’m on track to save a couple of hundred dollars for Christmas. It won’t cover everything of course, but it will make a nice dent in the expenses! What do you do to save for Christmas? Drop a line in the comments below so we can all learn!