So did you go a little crazy on Christmas 2016? Did you spend more than you had available, and now you have Christmas debt following you into the new year? Don’t feel bad, you aren’t alone. Lots of people love to spoil their loved ones during the holidays and get a little carried away. What if I told you that you could have a completely Debt Free Christmas next year? What if you don’t even need to take it down a notch, but you just use a couple easy tools to get free money and deep discounts so you have no regrets next January? You would do it right? It would kind of be crazy not to.
Here are a couple awesome tools to keep in mind throughout the year, by the time December rolls around you could easily have hundreds (if not more) of dollars to spend on your kids, family members, and loved ones. These tools are not very difficult to use and truly only make the money you spend go further. No crazy charts or codes, it’s honestly easy and doesn’t cost a thing. Between adoptions, hospitalizations, home businesses, and home repairs, holiday spending is always a challenge for us. These tools have honestly saved us several years in a row. We plan on having a Debt Free Christmas in 2017 again and we want to encourage you to too!
Check out the list below of ways to stretch your holiday dollars and simply use the ones that work for you.
Swagbucks – this is free money and really easy to use. Swagbucks is a search engine just like Google or Bing, but it rewards its users. When you search using Swagbucks you earn points (or, you guessed it “Swagbucks”), those points can be turned in for gift cards or even money straight into your Paypal account. Not only can you earn ‘bucks’ by searching, you can also answer surveys, play games, and so much more. Will you get rich? No way, but even if you just sign up and use the search tool every once in a while you can easily earn several gift cards each month. What kind of gift cards? Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, Nike, Home Depot, eBay, TJ Maxx, Whole Foods, and so many more! Order the gift cards you want when you want them, they ship them to your house. We have used gift cards as gifts, or used gift cards to buy gifts. We’ve also used the gift cards to save money on our home improvement projects and groceries. There have been years where we paid for our entire holiday spending and then some with Swagbucks. I plan on doing the same with 2017! Join me by clicking the picture above! Right now there is a $5 sign on bonus for new users. It costs you nothing and you can even opt out of emails and still earn. Why everyone doesn’t do this I will never understand.
Ebates – If you are going to shop online, make sure to do it with Ebates. With every purchase you are going to make anyway you will get a percentage back when you go through the Ebates portal. They have hundreds of retailers including Target, Walmart, and many more! Ebates sends out a “Big Fat Check” quarterly directly to your home. We have been using Ebates for a few years and our “Big Fat Checks” have totaled over $1500 so far, and we honestly don’t shop that much! You can even book travel, even just 3% back on those airfare tickets is going to be a nice check right?! You’ll get $5 towards your first purchase when you sign up with my link above and you’ll get a percentage back with that purchase. It doesn’t cost you a thing, they don’t sign you up for any spam. It’s all the wins!
Side Note – I personally ‘double dip’ with Swagbucks and Ebates. I choose gift cards from Swagbucks and then make purchases online using Ebates. So I use free gift cards to make my purchase, but I can make a percentage back in cash on my “Big Fat Check” even if I used Swagbucks gift cards to pay for it. So say I make a purchase at Target for $50 and use Swagbucks gift cards at a time when the percentage back is 5%, I would get $2.50 in my account. Not a ton, but I do this every month with multiple purchases. I use free gift cards to make purchases and then earn cash on top of it. I am literally being paid to shop.
Amazon Prime – If you buy more than 2 or 3 things on Amazon each year you really need to sign up for Prime. You will get your stuff sooner and won’t pay for shipping. In addition to that, you might find that their movies and TV options are enough of a reason to drop your cable or dish service. We cancelled all but the most basic cable service years ago, but we love Amazon Prime shows. This saves us somewhere around $50 a month on average with cable, and we rarely ever pay for shipping with Prime so we save there too.
You might have already predicted what I do here. I get Amazon gift cards with Swagbucks, I go through Ebates, and I earn money back on that purchase. And I just sit and wait for the good folks at Amazon to deliver it to my house for free and put a little extra money in my pocket for later!
Ibotta App – This app saves me money all over town and I am about to give you $10 to try it out! While many of the options I shared are online, Ibotta you can use to save a TON of money in stores. Target, Walmart, CVS. Browse through the high value cash back options on so many things you are buying anyway! You can even stack coupons on top of your Ibotta discounts making your purchases ultimately FREE! Just like Ebates you will earn actual money that just comes to you like magic! If you sign up through the link at the beginning of this paragraph the good folks at Ibotta will give you a bonus $10 if you use it within 2 weeks of signing up…. we are all going to Target or Walmart in the next 2 weeks right? When those free checks come in just put them aside for holiday spending!
Shop it to Me – is a personalized shopper that alerts you when tailored sales are available. You are only alerted when items in your size are available at the discount you are interested in. They also have a generous referral program where you can earn a $10 gift card for sharing with your friends who might also like to take advantage. So I save money and time, and I also earn gift cards. I have been known to use these gift cards in conjunction with Ebates as well!
The following are not apps or programs, but just ways we save a little over the years.
Try to Tone it Down. Over the years we have said up front to “Please not spoil our kids because we can’t spoil yours.” to friends and family. I think everyone has always appreciated knowing that small gifts are good enough. We personally have our kids fill out a this Four Items Christmas List printable. They think long and hard about “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.” Santa brings them their “Want” item, Mom and Dad bring the three other gifts. It is far less gifts than I got as a kid, but they do truly seem happy with the arrangement!
Buy generic gifts ahead of time during holiday sales. Teachers, neighborhood friends, etc will all need a small gift next year. Keep your eyes open that week or so after Christmas. We purchased holiday hand soaps for $1.50 that made great small gifts.
Reuse gift bags and even paper. I do not save paper, but I often ‘rescue’ whole rolls for a dime at Estate sales on the last day! I’ve often acquired gift wrap for free at Estate Sales and garage sales because they would literally throw it out otherwise. We always reuse gift bags and tissue paper multiple times. It pains me to see people use it once and toss it! Ribbons, faux flowers, and more can all be used more than once.
We stopped sending out Christmas cards a few years ago. Some people have strong opinions about this, and yes, I know I can get free holiday cards. Our Christmas card list was quite long and we would spend upwards of $50 on stamps alone. We now send a small handful to out of state older relatives, everyone else sees our Merry Christmas Greeting on Facebook. It saves time, stress, and money. I may start Christmas cards again someday, but for now it is a simple decision.
Sample sales! Depending on where you live, you might be able to take advantage of sample sales where you can easily save 75% or more! Last I bought my Sister in Law a pair of Noonday earrings at a sample sale. My Sister in Law bought me an amazing Leather Jacket at a sample sale that is gorgeous!
Make at least one homemade gift. In 2016 our fixer upper was still going strong, and still leaving a hole in our pockets. My husband is a very talented cartoonist and he drew caricatures of my parent’s grand children which we put in a simple Target frame. A friend of mine makes body scrubs, another makes marmalade with oranges from a tree in her backyard. Everyone can find something to make to stretch a budget, I promise.
While this is more of a philosophical idea than a money saving one, I would love to encourage you to buy at least homemade gift from a friend, and also one ethically trade item. Think of your friends that have Etsy stores or who sell in small boutiques around your town. I used to sell crafts and artwork and I can tell you from personal experience, when you buy a gift from someone they do a little happy dance of thankfulness. When the purchase is from a friend or acquaintance it is deeply validating. Also, keep your eyes open for items that are ethically sourced or fair trade certified, while it is almost always a few dollars more than a big box counter part, it says to the world that we think nobody should be taken advantage of. These are just “make the world a better place” things to keep in mind because that is really what the holiday season is all about!
As you can see, it takes minimal planning to make your money go further and earn bonus money while you are doing it. The sooner you sign up the more FREE money you will have at the end of the year to bless those you love! Browse through the links above and just sign up for what works for you. I honestly and truly use all of them and I never think twice. I can’t imagine not using them anymore because it would literally be throwing money away. Sign up for one or all, you could very easily have a debt free Christmas too!