Meg Schutte Meg Schutte Dec 12, 2023

How do the holidays get here so fast?

If you’re deep into your shopping list or just strategizing how you’ll pay for everything, we’re going to help you spend less and enjoy more. While inflation may bring out the Scrooge in some, Americans are allocating an average of $1,530 for gifts, travel and entertainment this year according to PwC. Lists can get long – from family, friends, coworkers, and teachers, to the doorman, hair stylist, babysitter, dog walker and newspaper carrier – depleting budgets fast. If your goal is to be one happy gift-giving elf, you can cut costs (but still make lots of merry!) with these seasonal tips.


Credit Cards - Unwrap the Perks: While you don’t want to get too comfortable swiping as a-shopping you will go, there are money-saving advantages to using a credit card. You’re racking up the holiday bills anyway, so benefit from the extras while you’re at it.  

  • Use your rewards credit card as you shop
    • Boost your cashback rewards with every dollar spent on groceries, alcohol, dining, gifting, travel and more
    • Use accrued points for statement credits, merchandise, and gift cards
    • Added protection if card is stolen (versus using your debit card)
    • Plus, extended warranties and return policy extensions added options 
  • Bump up your travel credit card points or miles with every gift you buy
    • Redeem for a trip in the new year
    • Enjoy travel protection, trip insurance, and trip delay reimbursement
  • Check for offers from your credit card company via text, email, direct mail or in your online account
    • Often partner with retailers to offer discounts, deals or coupons
  • To cover your holiday costs, open a new credit card account
    • A 0% APR credit card is your best bet
    • Or choose one with a low interest rate or no annual fee
    • Make a plan (and a promise) to pay it back in full post-holiday
  • Open a credit card account at a favorite retailer
    • Save time, money and "steps" by doing the bulk of your shopping at one store
    • Store credit cards can be easier to qualify for
    • New customers usually get a welcome bonus and/or a 10% to 15% discount for registering email
    • Plenty of perks come with loyalty programs - Sign up to receive coupons, sales news, exclusive discounts and members-only specials
    • Many stores price-match if you find a better deal elsewhere


Make Merry Later - Waiting Can Pay Off: There's merit to avoiding the holiday rush and last minute over-spending.

  • Wait to go green - Buy your tree, wreaths, centerpieces and other greenery just before the holiday.
    • Tree lots, florists and garden stores need to move seasonal merchandise and drop prices during the week and, especially, the day before
    • Many make it a tradition to buy their tree on Christmas Eve (lower cost=more jolly)
  • Hold that cart - Fill up your online shopping card, review your purchases and then don’t do a thing. Retailers hate to lose a sale and will try to woo you back. 
    • Typically, in a few days, you’ll get a “checking in” email offering a discount, limited time coupon code, or free shipping
    • Also a good gut check for making sure you really want to buy an item
  • Do a coupon sweep - Gift yourself some savings before you buy anything online or in-store. Before you click:
    • Search online for a digital discount coupon
    • Check email inbox for offers from retailers (sign up at your favorite shops if you’re not on their list already)
    • Check printed catalogs for specials, free shipping, and 2:1 offers
  • "That's so last year!" is a good thing - Some people live for the latest version of electronics; Others don’t care so much. Big savings can be had with last year’s inventory, open box (previously returned) items, and refurbished computers. 
  • Pause the celebrating - If you can stand to wait, schedule get togethers after the holiday so you can hop on season-ending sales.  
    • Get great deals on the perfect gifts
    • Stock up on gift wrap, gift tags, ribbons and bows, all hugely reduced
    • Clean up with big discounts on holiday decor (get a jumpstart on next year!)


Chop Down Your Shopping List: The more the merrier is true except when you’re buying, then it’s super expensive. Cutting down the number of gifts is a smart money move...  and won’t dent the celebrations at all. 

  • Gift Exchange - Skip buying for every relative or friend and parcel out the fun one by one. 
    • Group members pick a name (for a child, adult, or family) to buy for
    • Establish a price range
    • Select a date and time to exchange
  • Secret Santa - Random names are chosen and the gift-giver's identity is guessed during anonymous exchange. 
  • White Elephant - Love it or hate it, everyone brings a wrapped gift and numbers are drawn to see who picks first. Second person chooses a gift or steals from the first person... and on and on till everyone goes home, hopefully happily!, with a gift. 
  • Spirit Swap - Everyone shows up with the same type of gift (ornament, craft, bottle of wine, plate of cookies, etc.) 
  • Group Splurge - Every member agrees to pool their money on an event, experience or a trip, instead of gifts. 
  • Adopt a Family - Sponsor a family in the community and buy gifts for them versus your family. Ask your church, town hall, or school administrators to see who needs some extra TLC this year. 


Switch Up Your Gift Giving: Tradition finds most people showing up with wrapped gifts, but there are other ways to express your generosity that might hold more meaning for everyone on your list. 

  • Donate - Giving back is always in season!
    • Give money to someone’s favorite charity, which can then provide a card, text or email to let your recipient know
    • Send money to a nonprofit that can always use extra funds
    • Contribute household items, electronics and clothing to your local church’s holiday bizarre
  • Redo or DIY - Make a pledge to give what you already have. No buying new, just sharing items you own or have crafted yourself
    • Wrap up beautiful jewelry or clothing, a favorite book, reframe a beloved picture, dole out the family china, silver, or other heirlooms.
    • Let your talents shine by gifting something handmade
      • Cookies, ornaments, floral arrangements, quilts, eggnog... just use your imagination and your skills to share a personal touch
  • Give Back & Get Back - Giving of our time to others is the spirit of the season and always FREE!
    • Go caroling at a nursing home
    • Spend some time with soldiers or veterans
    • Deliver meals to a senior citizen home
    • Show animals in a shelter some love
    • Volunteer in a soup kitchen
  • Give Cash - Don’t forget: It’s all about giving what you can afford.
    • The budgeting trick of putting cash for monthly expenses into individual envelopes also works for holiday gift giving
    • Figure out your budget per person or family and take out fresh, crisp bills from the bank
    • Put them in an attractive money holder envelope
    • A gift card is also welcome (especially if you don’t know what to get someone)
    • Odds of re-gifting significantly reduced


FREE Your Spirit and Your Wallet: Lots of freebies this season if you pay attention. So don’t miss out on pocking “free money.”

  • Online, always choose Free Shipping and Free Returns when offered
  • Many retailers offer shipping coupons, free shipping days, or free shipping with a minimum order
  • Always check delivery, service and return fees on top of an item’s cost
  • Do a free trial of Amazon over the holidays to cut costs
  • Picky relative? Only purchase from a retailer who offers free returns, online or in-store


Give Your Holiday Budget a Gift
Open a Bank of Hope CD Now 
There’s still time to open a short-term CD to give you something extra to shop with and/or to pay those holiday bills when the new year comes. Check out Bank of Hope’s current CD offers here and give us a call or stop by a branch soon.

And Happy Holidays from All of Us!


Meg Schutte is a Bank of Hope Blog contributor.    

The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Bank of Hope. 

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