When I was growing up, my parents lavished us with gifts at Christmas. I remember opening all my presents one year and then finding a $100 bill hidden in one of them, as if the presents themselves were not already excess. At the time, I loved it. And really, who doesn’t love getting gifts, especially lots of them.
As an adult with mounting money problems over a decade ago, I quickly learned just how detrimental such actions were to my financial well being. Since I was used to lots and lots of gifts, that was exactly what I expected, despite my dim financial situation. Credit cards financed that delusion for many Christmases, until I realized that it was creating my own financial apocalypse.
These days, we rarely exchange meaningless Christmas gifts just for the sake of having things to open. At least in my immediate household. I still have plenty of relatives that like to give just in order to get. And those habits are hard to break, especially when they are other people’s habits.
In the past, there have been times when there was really no money to buy Christmas gifts for the extended family, but we did it anyways. With credit cards, of course. And if you are trying to pay down debt, then you may really be dreading this time of year – especially if you have a large family to buy for, like me.
If you’re worried about being able to afford Christmas, I have some tips that can help you cut your holiday gift list costs. You can also use these tips to lower costs for birthdays and other occasions.
While it might be a little late in the year to effectively implement all of these for Christmas, here are some tips on ways that my household lowers Christmas gift costs without being “cheap.”
1. Kohl’s Cash
If you have people on your gift list that you can buy clothes, or anything else that Kohl’s carries, then I suggest you start taking advantage of Kohl’s cash. They seem to do it every two weeks or so, and if you wait until just the right time of the Kohl’s cash earning week, you can also use a 20% off coupon to lower your initial cost. Just remember that you have to spend $50 for every $10 of Kohl’s cash that you get. What is even better is if you wait to spend the Kohl’s cash until you get one of the 20% off coupons. Sometimes, there is an even higher percentage off! One of the reasons that I really like to shop at Kohl’s is that they take returns at any time, so you can shop early in the year, if you want.
Also, if you sign up for the Kohl’s email list, you will get a free $5 coupon in your email within a week.
I’m sure you have already heard of Swagbucks, but if not, let me tell you about it. You can sign up for free and then earn points, called Swagbucks. As you earn points, you can redeem them for all sorts of different gift cards, including Amazon.com gift cards. I like to get the Amazon ones and then use them to buy presents for people direct from Amazon.
Points are earned through activities on the Swagbucks site, by entering special codes into your account when they are released, and by searching via the Swagbucks site or toolbar. I normally earn at least one $5 Amazon card there each month just from using the toolbar.
You can sign up here (disclosure: I receive bonus Swagbucks if you use this link).
Savings: At least $5 per month ($60/year)
3. Bing Rewards
Similar to Swagbucks is Bing Rewards. I actually prefer using Bing Rewards because when you redeem your points, you get the reward gift card immediately where you have to wait about a week with Swagbucks. Points are earned by searching on Bing as well as the bonus points that are available each day. It is easy to get enough points for a $5 gift card. In fact, I regularly earn two $5 Amazon gift cards with Bing Rewards. Choices are limited in terms of gift cards, but you can also opt for gift cards from Starbucks, Hulu Plus, Xbox Live and Groupon.
You can sign up for free here – (disclosure: I receive a one-time bonus if you use this link).
Savings: At least $5 per month ($60/year)
If you are not yet familiar with SlickDeals.net, then you need to catch up fast! The site focuses on highlighting hot deals from all over the web. Last year, I was able to get $80 of free credits in Groupon from this site, which I then used to buy Christmas and birthday gifts. Through the site I have also order organic t-shirts for under $5, name brand jeans for under $15 and all kinds of other cheap gifts. You just have to watch out for the SlickDeals effect where hot items sell out fast as a result of all the SlickDealers buying them up. Unfortunately, a lot of the site members buy up the cheap items to resell on eBay for a profit, so snagging a deal early is key.
image credit: By Kelvin Kay, en:user:kkmd [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons