‘Tis the season to be…
I know. Christmastime is over and there’s probably nary a carol left stuck in your head. Until now.
While there’s a good chance this next season is all about being grumbly over the gray weather as we all wait for spring, I’m actually using it as time to get ready for next Christmas. It probably seems way too early to be thinking a year ahead or getting my fa la la on.
But Christmas can be a huge expense, and this past year is the first time we paid for it entirely ahead of time….without dipping into savings or any sinking funds.
There’s a secret, and that secret isn’t that we stopped giving gifts.
We still gave gifts. Hundreds of dollars worth of a gifts, actually. These gifts were in-season, on-trend (I see you with that sassy black and white polka dot umbrella that you wanted, Mom!), and based on wish lists. We purchased them from popular stores, and we even included gift receipts.
The reason that Christmas went so well for our budget was because I spent last year thinking ahead, but I failed to blog about it until it was too late for anyone else to replicate. So now that I’m gearing up for another year of a financially stress-free Christmas, I thought I’d share my plans.
Credit Card Rewards for Christmas
I play around with travel hacking a bit, but our schedule isn’t flexible enough to make it really worthwhile. That’s why I’m more than happy to stick with our Discover It card and a Bank of America card. I dedicate all of the cash back rewards to our Christmas fund, and I pay attention to the rotating 5% categories. I don’t always max out the full cash back, but I am so pumped that grocery stores are 5% cash back this quarter with Discover. It’s one of my very favorite rewards!
If there’s nothing helpful or appealing with the Discover category, then I switch over to Bank of America to snag an extra percent or two cashback on groceries and gas. It doesn’t make me rich, but it doesn’t have to. Last Christmas, I ended up with about $400. That went a long way!
Shopping Extensions and Apps
Online Shopping Rebate Extensions – It actually shocks me that there are people in the world who shop online without using online shopping rebate portals. While how aggressively Ebates advertises, I’m surprised that more people don’t use it. I do, and I finally got around to downloading the extension so that I remember to use it more often. The best discovery for me was that Book Outlet, my new source for mega-cheap classroom library books, is an Ebates partner.
When stores that I normally use aren’t on Ebates, I’ll check out Cashbackaholic to see if BeFrugal or Mr. Rebates partner with them. But if it takes more than a few clicks, I’m not that interested. We’re committed to making this Christmas stash simple; not creating a part-time job out of it. Anything that we earn from Ebates or other online shopping rebates goes straight to our Christmas fund. Thanks mostly to Ebates, we tossed in about $75 this past year.
Mobile Apps – I pretty much have them all: Ibotta, Checkout 51, Fetch, you name it. If I can scan my receipt and earn dollars or gift cards, I probably do. I also have Shopkick and Receipt Hog on my phone.
RELATED POST: Using Ibotta for Some Extra Holiday Jingle
The biggest gold mine for me this past Christmas was Ibotta. We tend to gift a lot of consumables, and for our family and friends that largely translates to alcohol. (Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, indeed!). Ibotta is really generous with their alcohol rebates. They’re usually high amounts (think $3-$5+) and they can be redeemed from any grocery store or liquor store. When it was all said and done, we had just under $200 from mobile apps to spend on Christmas.
Final Thoughts on a Financially Stress-Free Christmas
While this strategy doesn’t remove all the stress from Christmas, it does cut back on a lot of it. The best part is that if we build up a big enough stash, we can cover all of our gifts and any extra Christmastime expenses. A piping hot chai latte already tastes like Christmas in a cup; knowing that it didn’t cost anything extra makes enjoy in the middle of the holiday hustle that much better.
So Tell Me…Do you have a sinking fund for the holidays? Do you use any of these tricks? Are you planning ahead this year some other way?