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10 Ways To Save Money This Christmas Without Losing The Sparkle

10 Ways To Save Money This Christmas Without Losing The Sparkle

With Christmas just around the corner, many people are feeling the financial crunch when they think about all of the gifts they need to purchase for friends and family. The current economy has left many people with less money to spend on gifts that they’re used to having.

The truth is that you really don’t need to worry. There are many options other than going shopping at the mall and spending too much money. Additionally, Christmas is a time to reflect on the birth of Jesus, spend quality time with family and friends, and appreciate the important things we have in our lives.

This is not to say that exchanging gifts shouldn’t be a part of Christmas. Holiday shopping is fun, and gifts are a way to show how much you care for someone, or to simply share in your friendship. Here are some creative and festive ways to save money this Christmas so the holiday season doesn’t strain your budget, or lose its sparkle!

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1. Send Cards Instead of Gifts

A thoughtful Christmas card shows people that you’re thinking of them and can often mean more than a commercial gift. Save even more money by purchasing cards in bulk. Include a handwritten note that personalizes your card.

2. Make a Shopping List

When you go shopping, make a list of the items you need to purchase, this will prevent impulse purchases. Keep track of the amount of money you can afford to spend and stick to it. Establish a budget ahead of time to help you save money this Christmas.

3. Participate in a Secret Santa Gift Exchange

Instead of buying gifts for all your friends and family, draw one person’s name and become that person’s Secret Santa. Place a dollar limit on how much to spend. Instead of buying gifts for many people, you can focus your giving on one person.

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4. Save on Wrapping Paper

Purchase wrapping paper at discount stores. Save gift bags throughout the year, then you won’t need as much wrapping paper. Wrapping paper goes on clearance just after Christmas, so stock up a year in advance and you’ll save a lot of money.

5. Shop Online

Most stores extend their sales and promotions to their online stores. Compare prices easily and look for online promotion codes to save even more money. You’ll save on gas money when you don’t have to drive to stores, too.

6. Plan Your Online Purchases Ahead of Time

Most online stores offer free shipping when you reach a certain dollar amount. Plan your purchases so you can order your items all at once to make sure you can receive free or reduced shipping rates. Ship items directly to the recipient’s home so you don’t have to pay to re-ship items once you receive them. Most online companies offer gift options where you can choose gift wrapping, a gift tag, and a gift receipt.

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7. Give Homemade Gifts

One of the best ways to save money this Christmas is by creating homemade gifts. Consider crafting, or sending baked goods instead of store-bought presents. Homemade gifts often offer a sentimental touch that you can’t find in any department store. Look for homemade gift ideas online and plan ahead so you have plenty of time to create your gifts.

8. Give Gifts of Service

Create your own redeemable coupons that are good for services such as cooking dinner, serving breakfast in bed, a free car wash, a back rub, mowing the grass, doing the dishes, or running an errand. The possibilities here are endless and many people will appreciate your services more than a store-bought gift.

9. Focus on the Celebration, Not the Gifts

Talk to friends and extended family about spending time together instead of exchanging gifts. Sometimes people feel obligated to continue giving gifts to people year after year. Be willing to tell people that you’d prefer to have their presence—and not their presents—at Christmas, and suggest that you don’t swap gifts this year.

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10. Share the Costs of Holiday Meals

If you’re hosting any holiday meals or parties, don’t be shy about telling people what they can bring. Allow others to bring food so everyone can share in the costs of the celebration. Focus on spending time with your loved ones instead of making everything perfect and you can make it the best Christmas ever.

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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