by Stephanie Ann
It's not too late to spend smarter over the holiday season. Credit cards are a notorious shopping trap that make it easy for the shopper to lose track of how much they spent and then they get hit with high fees when the bill comes. For all of the drawbacks of using credit cards, there are ways of making credit cards work to your advantage this holiday season. Many credit cards partner up with retailers and offer customers special deals, such as getting an extra 5% off your purchase when you sign up for that promotion.
Many credit cards offer a cash back rewards program, and if you pay off your credit cards in full each month, the holiday season is a great time to cash in those rewards. If you have multiple credit cards with cash back programs, take a strategic approach and get cash back on any cards you can and take note of how much cash back credit you have. For example, I call credit card company A where I have $30 worth of cash back credit and tell them I want to cash in my points and have the $30 deducted from my account. Then I call credit card company B and apply the $50 cash back credit I have with them towards my credit card. Then I make a note that I can go shopping and spend $30 on credit card A and $50.00 on credit card B knowing that the cost of the purchases will be canceled out by the cash that was deducted from these accounts as part of the cash back rewards program.
The place where I really like to cheap out is in the trimmings. I like to buy gift bags, tissue paper and individual holiday cards at dollar stores, which cost next to nothing. For a set of boxed holiday cards, I shop at my local used book store, Half Priced Books, which usually has a nice selection around the holiday season and they send out coupons if you sign up for their mailing list. If you normally send someone a card and a gift, you can cut your shipping and gift wrap costs by buying gifts that fit in a holiday card. Gift certificates, tickets for events, and entertainment and magazine subscriptions are a few examples of great gifts that would fit into a card.
I worked in retail before I started my writing career and the biggest mistake I saw holiday shoppers make was wandering aimlessly through stores and not having any idea of what type of gift would be appropriate for the people they were shopping for. These aimless shoppers often get so tired of shopping they end up buying something just for the sake of having a gift to give. Judging by the amount of returns, they often bought things that the recipient didn't want, which is always a huge waste of money even if they got it on sale. If you have a clear idea of what type of gifts you are going to buy, it's a lot easier to do a little research online or in stores and get a good idea of how much your spending total will be. If this total is too high for comfort, you can look for cheaper alternatives, such as making large batching of homemade goodies and then dividing the batch to put them in cheap cookie tins for different people on your list.
Stephanie Ann's book The Cheap Diva's Guide to Frugal and Fabulous Living: How to Shop Smart, Look Your Best, Decorate with Style, and Have Fun for Less Money! is full of tips and strategies for making the most of your money during the holiday season and year round. Packed with easy strategies for shopping smarter, making the most of the fashion, beauty, and home decor products you already have and hassle free entertaining ideas, this book and her blog at blog at thecheapdiva.com is perfect for busy women on a budget.