I was talking to a friend recently, giving some (solicited) financial advice and she noticed how geeked up I got talking about it. She asked why I never write about personal finance since I was clearly such a nut about it. Good question. I do love personal finance…maybe more specifically, I love the game of it. Finding little unknown hacks here and there to save money and optimize finances. It’s so fun! Unfortunately, it’s a little off-subject for this blog. With that said, I think most of our readers shop for the holidays and I think most of our readers are looking to get the most bang for their buck….so, I’m going for it with this post and hoping that this post gives you some fun and actionable ways to save some coin this holiday season!
Open a new credit card.
I’m taking a risk by opening with this one, but bear with me, there’s an angle to my suggestion. What I’m talking about is sometimes called credit card hacking. Basically, it’s taking advantage of generous sign on bonuses offered by the credit card companies by meeting the designated spending threshold in a specified period. And early fall is the perfect time to sign up for these cards as it’s much easier to hit the spending thresholds required to earn the bonuses, since you’re generally spending more money at this time of year anyway. One I’d suggest (and have used myself) is the Chase Sapphire card (although there are plenty other great options out there). At the time of the publishing of this post, Chase is offering 50,000 Chase Rewards points if you spend $4,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account. What can you do with 50,000 Chase Rewards points? A lot! For your immediate gift-giving needs, you can cash those points in for a statement credit against holiday purchases (50,000 points will basically cancel out $500 worth of purchases) OR you can cash them out via gift cards for the stores you’ll be shopping at (and there are TONS of gift cards to choose from – Amazon, Best Buy, Nordstrom’s, Target…just to name a few). Or use them to help cover travel expenses to get you home to see your family (queue “I’ll be home for Christmas…”). Finally, the points transfer to a lot of other rewards programs, so you can use them however you see fit. I’d recommend checking out this credit card finder tool over at the Mad Fientist to find the card that best matches your needs and wants.
**I feel obligated to put a bit of a disclaimer here … if you’ve had trouble with plastic in the past and tend to get a little shop-happy with a credit card in your hand, this strategy may not be for you! This is a good strategy for someone with a good handle on their credit and who, ideally, pays off their balance each month.**
Buy discounted gift cards
Every day people receive gift cards that they won’t use. Often, these people trade these gift cards in to gift card brokers for cold, hard cash. The gift card brokers then sell them at a discount to the public. Everyone wins! My favorite place to look for discount gift cards is Gift Card Granny, because they pull together gift card prices from a bunch of different sites so that you can find the gift card with the biggest discount. Buy gift cards for the stores you’ll be shopping at this holiday season from the wide variety they have available – REI, Lululemon, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, even Target. You can save up to 25%! Alternatively, you could buy discounted gift cards to give as gifts …. Just pay attention to the balance of the gift card, might be a little weird to give someone a card with a balance of 22.19, right??? Pick one with a nice even balance if you’re planning on gifting it.
Sell stuff you don’t need on eBay
This one isn’t exactly novel, but selling stuff that you or your kids no longer need on eBay is a great way to free up some cash to buy some gifts. Note: if you have ANYTHING from The North Face, it will sell. If you have any old Hunter boots, they will sell. Tons of other brands go very quickly as well. I’ve had a lot of luck selling the gymnastics leotards that my daughter has outgrown. Random stuff sells! Read this article to learn which brands may be worth your time. Some people are discouraged from selling on eBay because of the perceived work involved in selling on eBay, but I really don’t think it’s bad at all. I buy these self-sealing poly bags from Amazon (they make packaging a breeze), print the shipping labels off on my computer, use shipping tape them onto the package and pop them in my mailbox for pickup by USPS. Takes five minutes, tops.
Search out (and even buy!) coupons for planned purchases
I’m assuming you’re always checking Retail Me Not for promo codes to use on your online purchases (if not, you need to), but here’s another way to make sure you don’t miss out on savings! If you don’t get coupons in the mail, you can buy coupons for the stores that you’ll be buying gifts from eBay. I stumbled on this one by chance while searching for something else on eBay. If you’re planning on buying those new Nikes for your son this Christmas, it may be worth spending the $2 to get the $20 off coupon at Dick’s Sporting Goods, right? Combine this with #2 for even greater savings. Now, I will put a bit of a disclaimer on here …my research indicates that there’s some grey area here with respect to the appropriateness of buying/selling coupons online but I figure if eBay is allowing it, then they must have done their due diligence on the subject.
Capitalize on rebate offers
Use Ibotta, Ebates and/or Retail Me Not Cash Back Offers to get cash back on your online purchases. I’ve used Ebates from time to time, but often I forget to go through the correct process to ensure that I get the cash rebates … e.g. I’ll just go straight to the site that I’m buying from, forgetting to go there through the necessary portals. But, given the amount of money most of us spend in a holiday season, it’s probably worth the concerted effort to take those additional steps to get the cash back. Ibotta is newer (at least to me), but I’ve enjoyed using it so far. I use it for a lot of target and grocery purchases, in addition to craft store purchases. You select the products you’ve purchased, scan your receipts, and – voila – money is credited to your account.