Take advantage of deals
It's generally better to pay cash for holiday purchases, but if you do use a credit card, use one with generous cash-back deals. Credit card companies offer reward points for travel, gas and Amazon purchases, among other deals. Discover offers a match program for first-year cardholders, matching the points earned at the end of the year. Other cards offer big bonuses for new cardholders.
When buying gift cards, explore sites such as Gift Card Granny Opens in new window, which offers Starbucks, Kohl's, Target and other gift cards for up to 25% off. Buy one for Aunt Mabel or use them to pay for other gifts.
Trixie keeps her eye on Cyber Monday deals, when she can often find good discounts on electronics. Despite some unbelievable Cyber Monday sales, Trixie says she sticks to the plan. "We don't allow ourselves to get sucked into the splurge mentality."
Use apps to save
Holiday savings apps can help you save money and track holiday spending. You can use Earny to get cash back on online purchases. When you buy online, Earny Opens in new window searches for price drops. When it finds one, it files a refund request with your credit card company and credits your card the difference.
Camelcamelcamel Opens in new window, an Amazon price tracker, lets you set price alerts so you can buy gifts at the lowest price. Free apps such as mint.com Opens in new window and budgetsimple.com Opens in new window make it easy to create and track a holiday budget.
Please remember that giving companies access to your personal information always comes with some risk. Make sure that you are comfortable on how these apps protect and manage your personal information.
Start saving for next year
If you're late to the holiday savings party, don't fret. You can still keep your spending in check with a holiday budget. By setting a goal and tracking your holiday purchases, you'll also have a better sense of how much to save for next year.
Trixie and her husband set up automated withdrawals so they aren't tempted to skip a holiday savings contribution. Any money left in the account after the holidays carries over to the following year. Occasionally, they use the extra for practical reasons, such as an unexpected hospital bill.
Saving year-round gives you time to save for bigger-ticket items. When you can celebrate the season in a way that brings you joy, without the stress of credit card debt, you'll enjoy the most wonderful time of the year all the more.