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Get this: over 39 million Americans are still paying off their credit card balances from last year’s holiday season. And based on the rate of spending that’s already taken place this year, credit card companies are banking on balances going up another 5% this year. But it is possible to give yourself the gift of a debt-free holiday season using these simple tips below.
Be brutally honest about your budget. Unless you’ve specifically saved all year to pay for gifts, you should not have to dip into your savings account, emergency fund, or put away any less into your retirement accounts because of presents.
Prioritizing always helps. Take a good hard look at what you can truly afford and put together a list of everyone you have to shop for. Then ask yourself: who can I cut? Those on your “A-list” are absolute musts. B-listers get baked goods and C-listers get cut.
And don’t feel like a Scrooge! When 4 in 10 Americans say they don’t have $400 to cover an emergency expense, that could mean you or 4 in 10 of your own friends can’t afford presents either.
Don’t forget to add interest. Let’s say you spend $1,000 on gifts. But when your bill comes, you can only pay your minimum balance of $25 a month. It’ll take you 61 months to pay off that debt, and you’ll have to pay an extra $500 to in interest alone! Can you imagine being in debt for 5 years over Christmas gifts?
Tap into your credit card rewards points. To pay for the gifts you’ve budgeted for, try to use points you’ve already earned. Don’t be like the 3 in 10 cardholders who let their points go to waste and take advantage of redeeming your rewards points for gift cards. Or look into buying discounted gift cards online — saving up to 35% on the spot. Just make sure you buy from a site that has purchase guarantees, no fees, and no expiration dates, such as cardcash.com, cardpool.com, and giftcardgranny.com.
Patience pays. Shop with those cards online and place the items in your virtual cart, but don’t check out completely. In 24 to 48 hours, you’ll likely get what marketing strategists call an “abandoned cart email” with an extra sweet discount code of 20%-30% off.
Retailers have learned that on average 70% of online carts are left abandoned, so it’s become a standard practice to track shoppers and encourage them to complete their purchase and recover those lost sales.
Stacking savings. For you the consumer? You’re saving big by stacking discounts. Once your gift card balance is zeroed out, you’re done for shopping for the year. Resist the temptation to reach for any other type of card. Any gifts you want to give after you’ve tapped out your gift card balance will just have to be in the form of baked goods.