Black Friday is here, which means the annual dash to cross everything off your holiday shopping list has officially begun.
But according to a new survey from U.S. News & World Report, a third of American consumers are planning to rein in their spending this year due to the pandemic. And 41% confess that they haven’t set aside any extra money for their holiday expenses.
If you’re feeling underprepared for the holiday shopping season, here are a few easy ways to save some extra money so you don’t have to skimp on gifts.
Winterize your budget
Before you start shopping, make a list of everything you plan to buy, including a rough estimate of how much each item will cost.
Once you have a general idea of what you can expect to spend, start making room in your regular monthly budget by looking for areas where you can trim your other expenses.
For example, if you subscribe to multiple streaming services, canceling a few of them for a month or two can give your holiday fund a nice boost.
You might be able to shave some money off your grocery bills by trying out different stores in your neighborhood, since prices can vary a lot between grocery chains.
And make sure to always use a cash-back credit card or rewards app when you shop, so you’ll get a bit of money back on every purchase you make.
Price-check when you shop online
Amazon Savings found on November 19, 2020. Savings may vary. Sample results shown.
Because of COVID-19, chances are good that you’ll be doing most of your holiday shopping online this year. Huge digital retailers like Amazon make it possible to check off everyone on your list in a single afternoon — but you should know the convenience will cost you.
Unless you comparison shop for every item in your cart, you could end up overspending on gifts by hundreds of dollars.
If you want to save yourself the trouble of checking prices on multiple online storefronts, try using a free service called Capital One Shopping.
While you’re browsing on big sites like Amazon and Target, Capital One Shopping will instantly search other online retailers to see whether a better price is out there somewhere else.
Once you’re ready to check out, Capital One Shopping will automatically try to apply coupon codes gathered from its database of millions of users.
Capital One Shopping only takes a few seconds to set up. It helped people save over $160 million in the last year and it won’t cost you a cent.
Offset your costs with some side gigs
If you’ve got a special talent like drawing, writing or voice acting, you may be able to earn extra cash for your holiday shopping by picking up a few side gigs.
A number of online marketplaces will help you advertise your services and connect with customers who are looking for exactly what you’re selling.
Once you start completing gigs and accumulating positive reviews, you can increase your rates and bring in even more money.
Pay off your credit cards ASAP
Once the dust has settled on your holiday spending, your credit card bill will likely be higher than usual. It’s essential to pay off as much of your balance as you can, as soon as you can.
Credit cards are notorious for their sky-high interest rates, and since credit card interest compounds, a high balance can wind up costing you a ton. You’ll end up paying interest on the interest you already owe.
In the U.S. News survey, 35% of consumers say they plan to use a credit card to pay for holiday gifts. The easiest way to avoid getting bogged down with credit card interest is to pay your bill on time and in full each month.
However, if that’s not an option, try to at least pay more than your monthly minimum. Squeezing in a few extra dollars now will save you more down the line.
Depending on your credit score, you may also be able to consolidate your debt with a personal loan at a lower interest rate. When you consolidate, you pay off your troublesome debts with a new one that’s less painful to carry, saving you a bundle and helping you become debt-free sooner.