Christmas Shopping on a Budget
December 23rd, 2010
This time of year, there are about a million articles and blog posts circulating cyberspace about how to be frugal in your Christmas shopping. The question is thus: how to make the season bright when you’re pinching your pennies? I found the perfect answer this year: credit cards.
No, no, no. I know what you’re thinking and it’s not like that. I know perfectly well that Christmas debt is a massive problem in the US. The numbers vary depending on who you ask, but several sources I read suggest that the average American spends as much as $800 on Christmas gifts each year, and that more than half of Americans are still paying off their holiday purchases come July.
Just typing that sentence gave me heart palpitations.
So I’m not advocating racking up a huge credit card balance so that you can buy trinkets for all your friends and relations. I’m talking about cashing in those credit card points you’ve been building up throughout the year.
I use my credit card for most purchases and pay off the balance in its entirety each month. Among other things, Miss Mouse and Little Bear’s weekly (astronomical) Day Care bill goes on my trusty Discover card. Thanks to Discover’s excellent cash back system (up to 5%!), that kind of regular bill-paying results in a pretty hefty cash back balance in no time.
This year, I thought through my Christmas purchases and cashed in my points for a bunch of gift cards to stores I’d be shopping in. Like Borders. When you combine an employee discount with a bunch of gifts cards, Christmas shopping is suddenly a breeze. I love getting presents for people, but the act of spending money often stresses me out. Being able to do my holiday shopping with gift cards, knowing that my checking account balance was sitting pretty and unaltered, brought extra joy to the already-special experience of selecting gifts for the people I love!