How to enjoy Christmas on a budget

Source: Shannah Compton.

Remember when you were a kid, and you anxiously waited for the sun to rise so you could go and see what Santa brought you? Counting the presents under the tree, you just knew it was going to be your best Christmas yet. Those feelings of excitement during the holiday season never seem to vanish no matter how old we are.

Christmas can also be a time of hardship if you are living paycheck to paycheck and trying to make ends meet. No matter what your bank account situation is this Christmas, there are lots of ways to celebrate the season and stay within your budget.

Budget for Success

When you’re on a budget, the last thing you want to hear is that you need to make another budget. However, putting together a list of who you need to buy gifts for and how much you want to spend per person is a great way to make sure you don’t overspend. Start with how much you can spend in total and then break that number down based on who you’re buying gifts for.

There are lots of Christmas budget apps to keep you within your spending limits:

The Christmas List

A free IOS app, The Christmas List app lets you set a budget for each person on your list and then keep track of how much you’ve spent — all in the palm of your hand.

Giftster

A free IOS and Android app, Giftster also lets you create a list for each person or group you are buying gifts for and track how much you’ve spent. You can also have each person provide links to the gifts he or she wants the most and easily purchase the gifts through Gifster.

Hint: If you plan to use a credit card for your holiday shopping, call the credit card company before you make your first purchase. Ask for an interest rate reduction if you know you won’t be able to pay off the credit card bill within 30 days. When you’re using a credit card, the lower the interest rate, the better off you are to ensure you won’t be overpaying for your gifts.

Use What You’ve Got

When you’re on a budget this holiday season, you’ve got to think outside the box and use what you’ve got to maximize your gift giving. There are some clever ways to put a little extra cash in your bank account this holiday season.

Credit Card Points

They are worth value and many people overlook their credit card reward points. Depending on your credit card, points can often be redeemed for things like airfare, hotel stays, car rental, cash back and even gift certificates to be used at stores and restaurants.

Unused Gift Cards

Do you have a stack of unused gift cards laying around that you haven’t used? You can turn those into cash with companies like Raise and Cardpool that you can use on Christmas gifts. Most companies offer 80 to 90 percent of the value of the gift card in cash.

Negotiate

You can negotiate many of your common bills to save extra money that you can use for your Christmas budget — think bills like your internet, cell phone and cable bills. It’s not uncommon to be on a plan that is old and outdated and with one call to the company you can move onto a better plan that is less expensive. Use the money you save to help fund your Christmas gifts.

Christmastime doesn’t have to be a time of stress. There are lots of ways to manage Christmas on a budget with a little forward thinking and some ingenuity working with what you’ve got available to you. Always remember that it’s the giving spirit that counts and not the gift itself.

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