Stockpiling, Short-Term Rentals and Other Creative Ways to Save Money This Season
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"Timing your shopping can be as simple as looking for a sale or even waiting until Free Shipping Day (December 14, 2018) for online purchases. Keeping your eyes peeled for deals can go a long way."

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For too many Christmases than I care to remember, I spent upwards of $1,000 on presents for my husband and two daughters. I’d simply convinced myself that waking up to a tree overflowing with gifts was non-negotiable. By February—when my kids had lost interest in 90 percent of their gifts—I was left with regret. And a credit card bill.

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So a couple years ago, my husband Mike and I switched it up, instead buying a few stocking stuffers and one big experiential gift. As Florida residents, we can score discounted Disney annual passes, which are a huge hit. Not only do these make for year-round family fun, but we spend half of what we used to. And we’ve started saving months in advance of the purchase. In other words, the holidays no longer throw our budget off track.

These five embrace the same kind of creative thinking. Here are their tried-and-true strategies to stay on track this season.

"I cash in credit card rewards to pay for my holiday shopping."

Marc, 39, a blogger in York, Pa. 

“After our second child was born in 2015, my wife and I knew that Christmas shopping was only going to get more expensive. So she came up with the creative idea to use the credit card rewards we accumulated throughout the year to pay for gifts. Up until then, we'd just been using rewards for splurges we didn't need anyway, so this felt like a smart shift.

All year, I use cash-back credit cards for almost every purchase. My go-to option offers 2 percent on everything, though I have a couple of others in the mix that I use when it makes sense. One gets me 5-percent back on all Amazon purchases; another offers 5 percent on specific categories, like groceries and gas, that rotate quarterly. No matter what, I pay the balance in full each month to avoid getting hit with interest charges that negate the benefits.

We've racked up $1,000 so far this year that we'll be using to pay for all our holiday shopping. Even if you’re coming late to the game, there’s still time to put this strategy to work before the holiday season: A number of cards also offer signup bonuses to the tune of $100 to $200 to pad your holiday fund and get the ball rolling." 

Related: What's the Right Amount to Spend on Holiday Gifts?

“I easily save $800 with a simple gift-giving hack.”

Jim Wang, 38, a blogger in Maple Lawn, Md. 

“There was a time when spending $1,000 on holiday gifts for everyone on my list wasn’t unusual. Gift-giving is supposed to make you feel good, but it was stressful to shell out that kind of money each year. And I’d honestly rather be putting it toward retirement.

A few years ago, a friend mentioned a Secret Santa exchange that he did with his large family, and I was intrigued. The rules are simple: Draw names, then buy one meaningful gift for no more than $50. It’d relieve financial pressure for everyone, and even make the experience feel more intimate and special.

I floated the idea to a dozen family members, and it was really well received, so we made the switch the following year. Instead of skimping and buying a bunch of cheap presents—or way overspending—our little tradition lends itself to more focused, meaningful gifts. For example, last year I gifted my sister a Thai-themed cooking lesson that she absolutely loved, which was a definite step up from the gift cards that used to be my go-to.

The kicker is that switching up our gift-giving style probably saves me about $800 every year. The only downside is that the children in our family, including my three kids, aren't as keen on the whole single-present thing, so our spending hasn’t changed here. To save money on those gifts, I take advantage of sales throughout the year and stockpile presents along the way.”

November 9, 2018

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