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Tip of the Month:

Keeping Your Holiday Budget Merry and Bright

Peruse the aisles of most department stores and you’ll see it: holiday items for sale.

Yes, whether or not you’re ready, the holiday season has officially begun. And while this time of year can be a great opportunity to connect with family, it can also be traumatic for your finances if you’re not careful.

So how do you buy gifts for everyone on your list without blowing up your budget? Try these tips:

Make a game plan with your partner

Communicating about finances is key to any successful relationship, and it’s especially important around the holidays. For couples who share accounts, make a gift list and set limits on what you can spend. This way you can avoid any tense conversations about dipping too deep into family finances later.

You’ll also want to review your checking account and credit card balances so that you don’t get too wrapped up in the holiday spending spirit. Set realistic goals. If you can’t pay off your purchases immediately or in a short amount of time, re-assess your plan.

Comparison shop online

One of the perks of online shopping is the ability to research. Before you click that “buy now” button, compare the item you’re considering by checking the price across different retailers. It might be listed full-price on one site, but on-sale on another.

Also look for free shipping. If you spend enough time researching different retailers, you may find a helpful discount on the delivery of your gift.

Rewards points to the rescue

If your credit card has a rewards or points program, check the rules. You may be able to apply your earned points towards purchases at major retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Macy’s and more. True, you’ll give up the points for yourself, but avoiding holiday debt might be worth it.

Experiences may mean more

Whether or not you’re on a tight budget, sometimes the best gifts are low-cost, personal gestures. After all, it’s hard to find presents for people that they’ll actually love. So rather than spending a ton of cash, give a framed photo or cook a delicious meal for a family member or friend. A one-of-a-kind experience is more memorable than a gift you can easily buy from a store.

Money Saving Apps and Websites*

CamelCamelCamel - Track prices, set up alerts, and view history charts for products slod by Amazon.

Flipp - Far fewer people get the Sunday papers these days. But all the ads, sales, coupons, and other special offers from the Sunday circulars can be browsed with Flipp. The app covers weekly ads from some 800 retailers, including supermarkets, dollar stores, pharmacies, and big retailers such as Target and Walmart. If you add your loyalty-program numbers, some discounts will automatically be applied when your loyalty card is scanned at checkout, without any physical coupons.

Honey - never search for a coupon code again. Honey automatically applies the best coupon code at checkout. It's basically free money.

RetailMeNotSmart shoppers consider the list price merely a starting point that they’ll inevitably be able to beat with a few clicks of a mouse or swipes of a smartphone. The RetailMeNot app is a must-have for savings, with promotional codes, coupons, and other discounts at 50,000-plus restaurants and major retailers, and deals for physical stores and online purchases alike.

ShopSavvyThe ultimate “showrooming” tool, ShopSavvy allows you to inspect merchandise in the store and scan the bar code to compare prices from dozens of online competitors and local stores (but not Amazon, unfortunately). The app offers special cash-back deals from major retailers, and you can set up notifications to alert you when a desired product goes on sale.

*Despite the presence of links and mobile apps listed above, McGraw-Hill FCU makes no warranty or representation regarding, does not endorse, is not affiliated with, and is not in any way repsonsible for the linked website or any content that appears on it. If you decide to visit any linked website, you do so at your own risk and it is your repsonsibility to review the terms of use, privacy policy, and any other relevant legal notices of the relevant linked website. Article Source: Time.com


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