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The Smartest Ways to Shop Around the Holidays

We can’t all be organized enough to take on the famous "52-Week Savings Challenge," in which you sock away increasing amounts of money every seven days and end up with $1,378. However, there are a number of short-term challenges you can take on specifically for holiday shopping this year. They’re more fun and require less of a commitment. 

Whether you limit the gifts you give to "want, need, wear and read," pay only with cash, or make a weekly savings plan to hit your spending goal, here are a few ways to ensure you come out of the holiday season debt-free.

The 4-Gift Christmas Challenge

This plan from the Money Saving Sisters limits adults to buying just a handful of holiday presents for the kids in their lives: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. The "something they want" present ensures that there’s still some fun waiting under the tree. 

Institute the rule before kids get too old and they won’t expect the moon every time Dec. 25 rolls around. As a matter of fact, moms who use this system report that their children actually appreciate and remember their gifts more than they did when they received an overwhelming amount. I have a friend who has four kiddos. She swears by this system. 

Save with a Black Friday Deadline in Mind

If you haven’t saved a penny yet, don’t fear. The Penny Hoarder has a list of ways to accumulate cash  before the big deals show up right after Thanksgiving. They include setting aside around $30 each week starting in late summer or fall. A dedicated savings account can keep your cash safe from any impulsive spending until the time is right. At CommunityAmerica Credit Union, we offer holiday savings accounts that allow folks to save each week, month or pay period so that, by the end of the year, they have funds saved and don’t have to go into debt.

If it seems like you need more money for presents each year, the obvious way to solve that problem is to bring in more cash. The blog suggests considering a part-time or seasonal job. And don’t forget to budget for nongift holiday expenses, like travel, family feasts and parties.

Out-of-the-Box Ways to Snag Christmas Cash

Have you ever wondered how much money you could make by taking advantage of every cash-back survey offer or “special points” reward you see? Well, this blogger did just that – and made an extra $1,325.

Ideas include becoming a Nielsen family and taking advantage of offers from Ebates, a cash-back shopping site, and Shopkick, a shopping app. You’ll give up some privacy to download the suggested apps or use special search engines that pay you for access to your daily habits, but there's no denying that the money starts to add up if you're not afraid to shamelessly stack up the offers. 

Another idea to consider is buying a $20 gift card every time you go buy common groceries or household items throughout the year. By the time Christmas rolls around, you have a stack of gift cards to use and no concerns about debt.

We got lucky last year when Jack asked for video games. We just happened to have a Nintendo Wii in our basement that we hadn’t touched in four years. Then, when chatting with his teacher about what Santa was bringing, we found out that she had Wii games she wanted to clear out of her basement, too. It was a win-win: Jack thought he’d hit the jackpot, and yet all we paid was a nice gift card to thank his teacher for her generosity. 

I always like to remind folks that the holidays are about making memories. Gifts can be a part of that but don’t have to be the highlight. 

Kat's Money Corner is posted in the Kansas City Star every week. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, follow us on Twitter @CommunityAmerCU. 


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