We’re each projected to spend about $998 on presents this holiday season. Plus, the average household already owes nearly $8,000 in credit card debt, and many people’s income has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. So it will be very important to keep a watchful eye on your wallet during this expensive time of year.
With that in mind, WalletHub’s editors prepared six holiday shopping tips to help you give more, spend less and worry about money as little as possible.
WalletHub’s Holiday Shopping Tips for 2021
- Make A Budget & Payback Plan: This might at first seem like broken-record advice, but you really do need to figure out exactly how much you can afford, whom you have to buy gifts for and what other expenses you’re likely to occur. Then allocate your available funds accordingly. WalletHub, of course, makes the process easier on you by giving you a suggested holiday budget. But you should still make plans for how to use it wisely if you want to make everyone, including your wallet, happy.
After all, it’s easy to get so swept up in the holiday spirit that your wallet wakes up with a nasty New Year’s hangover. That’s one reason why we typically rack up more credit card debt during the last three months of the year than any other time. So if you expect to need more than a single billing period to pay off your holiday expenses, you might want to consider a 0% APR credit card. Just make sure to use a credit card payoff calculator to confirm you’ll be out of debt before regular rates kick in.
- Avoid Retailers’ Special Financing Offers: If you expect your holiday expenses to lead to a balance that you can’t repay right away, don’t use your normal credit card or accept a retailer’s financing offer. Credit cards typically charge high interest rates – the average is about 19% – and if you didn’t get one specifically for financing, it’s probably not up to the task. Furthermore, most of the store credit cards that offer 0% introductory rates use a dangerous feature called deferred interest, which can lead to major unexpected costs.
Instead, we recommend finding a general-purpose credit card with no annual fee and the longest possible 0% intro period.
- Have A Rewards Strategy: There is historic value available from credit cards right now. The average rewards credit card is now offering an initial bonus of $202 in cash or 26,807 points/miles, according to our latest Credit Card Landscape Report. And the best deals give $500+ in value. In other words, the right card could cut the average person’s holiday budget in half.
Plus, wouldn’t you be excited for a 10% - 30% off sale at one of your favorite stores? Well, that’s the discount some of the best store credit cards give you on your first purchase. Even the best cash back credit cards can save you 2% on everything. You just need to apply soon enough to have your new card by the time you do your shopping.
- Hunt For Deals: The best retailers for Black Friday usually give up to 70% off. The best Cyber Week deals are almost as sweet, offering as much as 60% off. And those are just the high-profile annual options. Retailers also hold more impromptu sales this time of year, and you can often find big-time savings online from sites such as eBay. Furthermore, perusing “daily deal” and coupon sites, comparing prices from multiple retailers, and avoiding last-minute shipping all are among the myriad ways we can keep holiday costs in check.
- Give Cash: It might seem impersonal, but cash is also much simpler and infinitely more versatile than any other present you could give. Gift cards are another good option, especially since the most popular offers have decent resale value. You can also give gift cards for shares of companies’ stock.
- Give Back: Roughly one-third of the year’s charitable giving occurs during the month of December, according to various reports. So why not join the merry crew spreading holiday cheer to those in need? There are plenty of great causes to choose from if you’re feeling generous, and your donations will help you out when tax season rolls around if you itemize your deductions.
This time of year clearly is quite expensive, but the holidays shouldn’t be about money. There are far more important things to focus on, from family and friends to health and happiness. So try to get your shopping done both early and affordably in order to have more time for the finer things in life. Most presents aren’t worth paying interest on, after all, particularly when your mere presence is likely all that’s needed to bring someone holiday cheer.