The holidays can be expensive. With all the gift giving, parties, shared meals, and travelling, your bank account can really take a hit. If you don’t plan ahead, these expenses can really take a toll on your credit cards and emergency funds.
However, there are a few ways to increase your income and even spread your payments out to avoid going into debt.
The first thing you need to do is create your holiday budget. An easy way to do this is with Clearpoint’s Holiday Budget Planner. Do it today; don’t wait. You need to know upfront how much money you’ll need and the sooner you know this, the better. Create a budget for all the gifts you need to buy as well as all your travel expenses so you have a full picture of what you need to cover. If you know you’ll be buying a few extra gifts but don’t know how much they’ll be yet, build a buffer into your budget by plugging in a couple hundred dollars for miscellaneous expenses.
Without further ado, here are 5 tips to stretch that budget as far as possible.
1. Clean out your closet…
And any other storage areas you have. If you have things you no longer use but they are still in good shape, sell them on eBay, Craigslist and local Facebook groups in your area. Or consider re-gifting them to a family member or friend. Your junk is someone else’s treasure. You can get rid of almost anything: clothes, furniture, electronics and almost anything else you have lying around.
2. Opt for layaway
Layaway allows you to pay in installments, but since it isn’t a loan it won’t hurt your credit score or increase your credit card balance. You will need to put money down for the down payment on your purchase and the layaway fee. Then, pay off your item in installments on a payment schedule. You will need to shop ahead to pay for your items before the holidays. This is a great option for larger purchases. And it’s not just big box stores that offer this option anymore, many smaller independent stores are starting to offer it too.
3. Get a part-time job
If you’ve got a lot of purchases to make and not a lot of cash, get a job for the holiday season working nights and weekends. Many online companies will be hiring more customer support, and stores in the mall need temporary help to support the influx of customers.
Most retail stores will be looking for seasonal help from Thanksgiving to January. You can easily make the extra money you need to pay for your gifts with just a few hours a week. You can even apply for a position in a store where you can purchase most of your gifts, that way you can take advantage of the employee discount as well.
4. Redeem reward points
If you have a credit card that offers reward points, this may be the time to cash them in. Most credit card companies allow you to redeem your rewards for gift cards. You can get a Visa or American Express pre-paid card in exchange for your points then use these cards to do your shopping. Most companies take 4-6 weeks to send your gift cards, so plan ahead. But cash back is likely the best option, since you can spend it anywhere. So if your credit card offers cash back redemptions, use that instead.
5. Start a side business
If you’ve ever thought about starting a little side business, this may be the right time. What do you know how to do well? Start a service-based business that allows you to work with your clients and deliver your services on a schedule that’s convenient for you.
Do you know a lot about a particular topic? Write an eBook and self-publish it on Amazon. If you charge at least $2.99 for your eBook, Amazon will pay you 70% of the sale price. Selling 500 copies could net you over $1,000 for holiday spending.
A little planning ahead will allow you all the time you need to make some extra cash and cover your holiday expenses. You may even come out ahead. This might be more difficult to do in a pinch this year, but you could being laying the groundwork to create an extra income stream, which could free up lots of money for the next holiday season or your day-to-day expenses.
That leads us to a BONUS tip: Start preparing for next year’s Christmas early next year. Setting aside $35 per month starting in February (by then you’ll be over the holiday hangover) will leave you with $350 going into December, helping the holidays seem less like pressure and give you more breathing room for when you really need it!
And one more BONUS tip/reminder: use the Holiday Budget Planner to help you make your budget this year. Just getting some numbers and goals in place will go a long way to making sure you are financially prepared this season.