The weather is getting colder and the stores are getting ready to play Jingle Bells on repeat. That means one thing: the holidays are on their way, whether we are ready or not. And while the holiday season is full of fun and joy, it is also full of bills and penny pinching for many of us. Before the holidays blindside us totally, we are here to talk about how you can prepare yourself for the onslaught of expenses.
Here are our top tips for saving money this holiday season.
Tips for Budgeting
Create a holiday budget ahead of time.
Creating a budget ahead of time is one of the best things you can do to avoid splurging on the holidays. Make a list of who you need to buy gifts for, what events and parties you plan on going to, and any other miscellaneous expenses that may pop up.
Your holiday budget should fit into your monthly budget, and starting early can help you get ahead on savings. Your monthly budget should track your income, your fixed expenses, and your variable expenses. The difference in your income and expenses is what you have to save, whether you are looking to build your savings and investments, or looking to save for the holidays. Create a realistic budget for what you think you should spend for the holidays. It’s important to have fun and enjoy the holidays, but not at the expense of your financial wellbeing.
Work on cutting your monthly budget.
You can free up a lot of extra money by taking a fine tooth comb to your monthly expenses. There are a lot of places where you might be able to slash costs, such as switching to generic groceries, coupon clipping, and signing up for a loyalty card at your local grocery store. Cutting subscription services that you can live without is another way to save on your monthly budget (or at least split your membership with a friend to save on half).
Free up some money with refinancing.
One of the easiest ways to save money on your monthly budget is to refinance your car loan. Chances are you are overpaying every month, and refinancing your loan is a great way to reduce your payments.
Refinancing your car loan can help you in a few ways. If you qualify for a lower car loan APR, you can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the life of your monthly bill. You may qualify for a lower APR if:
- Your credit score has increased since you first financed your car
- The market rates have decreased since you first financed your car
- Your debt to income ratio has improved since you first finance your car
Refinancing also allows you to change your repayment plan, by either extending it or shortening it. If things are a little tight every month, extending your repayment plan can free up a lot of money in your budget. You will end up paying more in the long run, but it might be worth it if you need the breathing room. On the other hand, if you shorten your repayment plan you will pay more every month, but can save a lot of money in interest over the life of your loan. Refinancing can also help you add or remove a cosigner and get out of a bad relationship with a lender. But whatever your reason is, Auto Approve can help you refinance your car loan quickly and easily.
Using cash is a great way to ensure that you stay on budget. If you only have $500 to spend in cash on gifts, then you can not go over that amount and you will eliminate the temptation to overspend. Of course you cannot shop online with cash, but you can buy a prepaid card that will allow you to load it up and shop online while still staying within your budget.
Pay with credit, but be careful.
While paying cash forces you to stay within a budget, credit can help you earn money while spending money. If you have a good cash rewards credit card and can stay within a budget, then you can actually make some money this holiday season. But be sure to pay off your balance in full every month, or else the money that you do save will just get paid back to the bank in interest. It is all too easy to keep swiping your card, so if you do use credit, use it with caution.
Tips for Gift Giving
Shopping early gives you the chance to look around for deals, find alternative gifts, and think through your spending. If you are rushing around to find the perfect gift at the eleventh hour, you might be coerced into spending too much money. Shopping early will give you a better chance to find competitive pricing and shop the sales.
Set limits on spending with friends and family.
Have a thoughtful discussion with your friends and family about what your gift giving budget will be. Chances are your friends and family will be happy to cut their shopping expenses as well. Whether you decide on a $20 limit, a $50 limit, or decide to do a Secret Santa, setting some boundaries can help ensure that everyone stays on budget and that no one feels awkward about giving or getting less.
Take up a new DIY hobby.
DIY gifts are a great way to save money during the holiday season, and have a little fun while doing so! Here are some of our favorite DIY gift ideas:
- Homemade candles
- Baked goods, such as cookies, breads, and muffins
- Knit scarves or blankets
- Homemade pet treats
- Homemade lip balm, bath salts, or body scrubs
- Jarred spice blends
The options are endless, but thoughtful homemade gifts can make beautiful, fun, useful, and inexpensive gifts this holiday season. Plus, if you are able to make some in bulk, such as a large batch of cookies or a large spice blend, you can get multiple gifts done at once.
Steer clear of Black Friday.
Black Friday has long been thought of as the best shopping day of the year with the best deals. But this is not really true anymore. In fact Black Friday of 2021 reportedly had the least valuable deals on record. Try to steer clear of the lines and the gimmicks and shop early instead. You will most likely be able to find better deals elsewhere.
Resist the urge to buy for yourself.
It is so hard to see all of the deals and fun gifts and not get something for yourself, but it’s all too easy to let your spending get out of control. Instead, try to treat yourself in other free ways, such as a relaxing bath night or an hour of uninterrupted TV time.
Take advantage of free shipping day.
Shipping can add a lot onto your total when you are shopping online, so be sure to pay attention to free shipping offers. Try to load up your orders as much as possible to qualify for free shipping. December 14 is Free Shipping Day, when hundreds of online retailers offer free shipping with no minimum purchases, so be sure to take advantage of that.
Tips for Enjoying the Season
Be creative with decor.
Holiday decor can add up fast, especially with new styles coming in and out of fashion. But DIYing your own decor or visiting a thrift store can help you decorate your home inexpensively. Pinecones and leaves from outside your front door can make perfectly festive and free decorations as well!
Find free holiday events.
There are loads of free (or at least very inexpensive) holiday activities that you can do to celebrate without breaking the bank. Our favorites include:
- Make a gingerbread house
- Visit a Christmas Tree Farm
- Go to a local holiday festival or parade
- Host a holiday game night
- Go to a tree lighting ceremony
- Drive to see the Christmas lights in a nearby neighborhood
- Go to a local production of a holiday play or musical
- Go Christmas caroling with friends
There are endless possibilities for celebrating the holidays affordably. And by saving money on activities, you can stress less and enjoy your holidays even more.
Those are our top tips for saving money this holiday season.
The holidays are inherently stressful, but tight budgets can make the season even more chaotic. That’s why it’s important to have a plan, have a budget, and stick to it. Cutting monthly costs where possible is a great way to get a little extra spending money, and refinancing your car loan is an easy and effective place to start.
Refinancing your car loan with Auto Approve is easy and can save you money immediately. But don’t just take our work for it–with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and a 96% would-recommend rating from LendingTree, you know you are in good hands. So don’t wait to start saving–get in touch with Auto Approve today!