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Start Saving Money At Christmas

SAVE MONEY AT CHRISTMAS

"Keep Your Money From Going Down The Chimney"

 

It's getting around "that time of year” This is the time of year when people spend money they don't have, to buy things they can't afford, to give to people they don't like.  Yes... I may even be talking about your kids.  :)

But either way, if you participate in Christmas and are smart about doing so, there will be some expenses incurred.  So today we will discuss some ways to save money this Christmas and also Christmases going forward.

This Christmas

Travel Expenses

First, let's start with travel.  Holidays are the most traveled days during the year as people move around and try to be with their families.  So if you are traveling, you will want to make sure you spend the time exploring all of your options and hammering out all of the numbers. 

Driving

Now unless you are traveling in a serious gas guzzler, driving to your destination will obviously be cheaper.  However, the thought process is that it will be a lot more time efficient to fly.  But make sure that you take into consideration all of the time it takes to fly (travel to and from the airport, hours spent waiting at the airport, time to rent a car if need be etc.)  Driving the entire way may be an overall better option.

Flying

Most of the time, booking far in advance will get you the cheapest price (more on that later).  However, if it is already late in the game and you are paying a high price, you may want to consider waiting even more.  In many cases, airlines will drop their prices at the last minute to fill up their flights.  So, maybe later is best.  And also consider flights late at night and in the middle of the week (as less people travel on those days). 

You also may want to consider looking in alternative airports.  Flying out of an airport in a nearby city (relative to your destination or your starting point) may save you substantial money.  I know this from personal experience.  So if you are renting a car, have a place that you can park free or cheap, or you have someone who can pick you up or drop you off at an alternative airport, you may want to check the price of the shorter flight.  It may surprise you. 

Some good places to compare rates are sites like Fare compare, Cheap Flights, and Trip AdvisorSouthwest also normally has very cheap rates. Explore all your options.  Don't assume that booking round trip is cheaper.  Factor in baggage.

Side Note: If you happen to be staying at a hotel for an extended amount of time, consider booking a suite with a kitchenette.  It may be more expensive, but over a period of time, you may save more money on meals by doing your own cooking.

Gifts

There are several different things that you can do to save money on buying gifts this Christmas.  One of the main techniques is of course to NOT BUY GIFTS FOR EVERYONE

The Secret Santa

The following technique goes on at a lot of corporations, but it rarely goes on in families.  You see, having a big family can have a lot of advantages.  Buying Christmas gifts IS NOT ONE.  Now obviously you are going to give your immediate family gifts.  But at the family get together, is it necessary to get gifts for all of your nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles etc.? 

If you have a large family it may make sense to draw names out of a hat or something of that nature.  That way everyone gets a gift, but no one has to deplete there life funds to get everyone something.  This is especially sensible when dealing with a lot of children who are only going to play with that new toy for 2 days and kick it to the side with the rest.

Change The Date

This next technique may not work unless you know how to “play it off.”  One sneaky way to save money on Christmas is to lobby to move your family get together date a couple of days past Christmas (You need that whole day for your immediate family right?).  That way you can shop AFTER Christmas and save substantial money. 

Christmas Cards

Are you one of those people who have a long list of people who you send Christmas cards to every year (half the people you never talk to)?  Instead of sending a card to them, how about making a brief phone call and wishing them well?  They would probably be much more warm and fuzzy if you talked to them than sending a card in the mail anyway.  And if you are so distant that you don’t even want to talk to them... should you really be sending them a card?

Now when you do decide to get Christmas cards, the later you wait the better.  The stores know that hardly anyone is going to buy Christmas cards after Christmas even if it is a bargain (nobody wants to look like a fool at the cashier), so prices will often drop at the last minute.  It is also a lot cheaper to send postcards.

Christmas Shopping

The first thing you want to do is be organized.  Christmas shopping is just like grocery shopping... accept it’s different.  Make a list of all of the people you need to get gifts for, and set your limit before you begin.  Impulse buying will get you killed at this time of year.  And remember, the best and most thoughtful gift is not always the most expensive one!

Shop Online

A lot of online stores offer free shipping around this time of year.  But in a lot of cases, if they don’t, their prices are still cheaper even after shipping!  Also take into consideration that most mainstream retailers have online sites.  And a lot of them have online deals that you won’t get in the store, but you can have them shipped for free to a nearby store for pickup. 

Another benefit of shopping online is the convenience.  You can compare pricing very easily without having to drive around everywhere.  The ability to compare prices and save gas money can save you substantially more even if you do decide to pay shipping.  And since you are organized (you have your list together), you can sit down and knock out a large percentage if not all of your Christmas shopping.

The following is a list of sites where you can get coupons to enhance your online shopping experience!

Coupon Cabin
Retail Me Not
Ebates
Coupons.com
Coupon Mom
Smart Source

Looking for more?  Check out these sites.  I’m sure that you will find your favorite store somewhere.

Coupons On Top Ten Reviews
Coupons On Top Ten Links

Gift Cards

I realize that some people may love the “surprise” element to Christmas gifts so this particular tip may not be for you.  Gift cards are a beautiful gift to give or exchange for Christmas (or any other time for that matter).  They are easy to obtain (no shopping) and you can stay within your budget.  You can’t lose with them either because they allow a person to get what THEY want.  And when you exchange gift cards everyone wins because you can give gifts but basically end up with the same amount of money that you spent (since people will use those cards to get items they were already going to buy anyway).

If you receive a gift card that you don’t really want, you can visit sites like Gift Card Rescue and sell it.  You can also purchase gift cards at a discount on this same site.  You can also design your own gift card at GiftCards.com

 

After This Christmas

Now at the beginning of this newsletter I talked about saving money during this holiday season and of course many to come.  So now I will get into ways that you can cut back on your Christmas bill moving forward.

Special Offers

One thing you can do to start saving money is by signing up to receive special offers by e-mail.  Yeah, I know... Nobody wants to have their inbox bombarded with e-mail everyday from ALL these companies. So you can open up a separate e-mail address just for this.  Then you can just browse through this inbox periodically.  Some good deals will come up through the year that you may be able to capitalize on.

Get A Rewards Card

If you don’t have one, most banks have a rewards program where you can accumulate points by using a credit card (credit or debit).  Just by paying your bills on this card (setting up automatic bill pay), you can earn enough points by the end of the year that you can probably get a gift card or two.

Use A Recycling Rewards Program

Are you an electronics junky?  Maximize the use of your old electronics by using programs like Recycle Bank and Max Back where you can trade in your used cell phones, video games, MP3 players, cameras and more for cash, gift cards or discounts at retailers.

Book Your Holiday Flight

One of the first things that you want to do After Christmas is book your flight for next year.  Yes!  According to Trailfinders, the best time to book a flight is 11 months in advance.  So in late January, you can book your flight (they should be out by then) and you can save big.

Buy Christmas Presents

I'm not telling you anything new on this one.  The best time to buy Christmas gifts (or most other things for that matter) is AFTER Christmas.  This is when everything goes on sale as stores get rid of their inventory.  This of course gets harder and harder to do since products change over so fast that what is new today will be out of date by tomorrow (that's the conspiracy).  But, it still can be done in a lot of cases. And Christmas decorations drop drastically after Christmas when the stores are just trying to get rid of them.

And to take it a step further, you can always have an eye out for Christmas presents through the year.  If you see something in the middle of the year on sale, go ahead and purchase it then.  Outside of buying gift certificates, the worst time to buy Christmas gifts, is Christmas.  If you do this, you may find that a lot of your shopping will be done by the time you get to the holidays.

In the months leading up to Christmas you can...

Adjust Your Tax Withholding

The average tax refund for last year is close to $3200.  That is about $266/mo.  So if you receive a refund every year, how about adjusting your withholding on your W-4 a couple of months before Christmas and taking that extra money and saving it so that you have some extra money to work with when the time comes?

Cut Your Cable Bill

Another thing that you can cut down on close to the holidays is your cable bill.  Switching from premium (1,489,320,147,281,904,478 channels that you don't watch) to basic can save a lot of money.  You can save hundreds just in a few months.  You can always go back after Christmas. 

Shrink Your Bills

Speaking of bills...  You can go to the website Bill Shrink and compare your current bills (TV, Wireless etc.) and you may find that you could be paying more than you need to. 

Hopefully, these steps will help you save money this year and years to come.

So until next time,

Free Your Mind... Online

 

Matt Mason



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