If you’ve visited Walmart, Costco or Sam’s Club recently, you know the holidays are coming. Christmas trees, twinkle lights and other decorations are already on display at these retailers and other stores, reminding consumers that the most wonderful time of the year is right around the corner.
Even if you’re not ready to deck the halls, there are several things consumers can do now to avoid going into debt this holiday season. With the average American household owing over $15,000 in credit card bills, it’s important to stay in budget this holiday season and cross the following items off your list soon.
Book holiday travel.
If you plan to travel at Thanksgiving and Christmas, now is the time to book your flight for the best price. According to Hopper, an airfare analyzer and predictor, the best prices for Thanksgiving airfare are available before Halloween. After that, fares will rise $1.50 per day prior to booking, jumping to $6 per day just 10 days before departure.
Before the holiday season gets into full swing, chat with family members about gift expectations. Now is the time to suggest buying gifts only for the kids, or organizing a Secret Santa swap. These alternatives make it easier on everyone’s time and budget but must be discussed and agreed upon ahead of time.
Research prices on gifts.
Create a gift recipient list and start brainstorming gift ideas so you can research prices ahead of the deal-heavy holiday season. Retailers make it seem like everything is the best deal of the year during November and December, so it’s important to know if something is actually a deal, or if the original price was simply inflated.
Sell unwanted items.
Boost your holiday budget by reviewing the contents of your closet and other storage areas and sell what you no longer want. Sell clothing through local consignment stores or online using sites like ThredUp.com; get cash for furniture, TVs and other big items through Craigslist or the OfferUp app; and sell old gadgets and electronics through Gazelle.com or NextWorth.com.
Redeem rewards for gift cards.
Review your credit card points and redeem these rewards for gift cards to use as gifts or as currency during your gift shopping. Paired with sales and coupons, gift cards can slash your holiday spending considerably while still fulfilling your gift list. You can also load up on discount gift cards from sites like GiftCardGranny.com, which sell gift cards and merchandise credits for 5% to 25% off face value.
Establish gift-buying strategy.
There are several holiday promotions to help you spend less on gifts over the next several weeks, and it’s important to know which event will feature desired items at the best prices. Consult DealNews.com, a deal aggregator and store sale hub for consumers, to find out which products are best purchased on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And don’t forget Free Shipping Day on Friday, Dec. 16, when thousands of retailers waive shipping minimums and guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve.
Prepare freezer-friendly meals.
For those who are expecting a house full of out-of-town guests over the holidays, lighten your hosting duties (and the budgetary burden) by preparing food in advance. For every dinner you cook for your family now through Thanksgiving, double the recipe and freeze half. This ensures you have plenty of homemade meals to quickly serve family and friends by simply reheating. There are several other ways to save money on groceries and holiday meals, including shopping early, buying generic brands for basic ingredients, and baking your own desserts.
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Andrea Woroch is a money-saving expert who transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers by sharing smart spending tips and personal finance advice. As a sought-after media source, she has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, Today, CNN, Dr. OZ, New York Times, MONEY Magazine, Consumer Reports, Forbes and many more. In addition, Andrea’s stories have been published among leading publications and sites such as Yahoo!, AOL Daily Finance, CNN Money, Huffington Post, LearnVest and New York Daily News. Check out Andrea’s demo reel or visit her website at AndreaWoroch.com for more information about booking an interview or requesting an original written article. You can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook for daily money tips.
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