This past weekend we held a giveaway of 10 Flip Video Cameras. Entry was free and required answering this question: “What is the savviest way you have made your money work harder for you this holiday season?”
There were many great answers covering a variety of topics. The contest has ended and most people won’t go back and read through the comments, and since there is a wealth of great information there, I thought I would share a few of them with everyone.
Savvy Money Tips
The following are a condensed and consolidated version of some of the tips Cash Money Life readers shared in the American Express Charge Card holiday giveaway. Many of the tips were specific to holiday shopping, but most of them can be applied any time of year.
Stick to a budget. This is perhaps the most important and most savvy tip of all. You won’t get far if you spend more than you have. Some readers mentioned creating a dedicated savings account for their Christmas shopping, which is a great way to segregate your funds both mentally and physically. Here are some free online money management programs that can help you set up a budget. Need information about starting a dedicated savings account? Read about how to create a personal accrual account for holiday shopping or other large expenses.
Comparison shopping. Being the holiday season, many of the tips were about finding the best deals. The most popular option was by doing comparison shopping, both online and at local stores. Several people mentioned the good and the bad side of Black Friday deals. Some Black Friday deals are great, while others are merely hype. A good tip is to research item specs and prices before Black Friday so you know whether or not you are getting a good deal in both price and features (some Black Friday deals are actually popular items with fewer features).
Shop on rebates sites. Another popular way to save money is to shop through websites that give you rebates, cash back, or other rewards. My favorite is Ebates, but there are a host of other sites that have similar features (read an Ebates review for more information).
Use Credit Cards or Don’t Use Credit Cards. Credit cards are one of the few areas where it can be savvy to use them or savvy to avoid them; it really just depends on your financial situation at the time. Personally, I charge almost everything on a rewards credit card, then pay it off at the end of the month. I track my balance and never charge more than I can pay. For me, the cash rewards and other conveniences make this a savvy money move.
For others, avoiding credit cards is the best move they can make. And I support that as well. You need to do what is best for your situation.
Change gift giving habits. Several readers mentioned they changed they way they gave gifts to family and friends such as a group gift exchange, pooling funds to buy nicer gifts, drawing names, putting a price limit on gifts, or hosting events instead of exchanging gifts. One tip I especially enjoyed was the “no new money” gifts, which required everyone to give gifts that they already owned, such as gently owned books, movies, games, etc.
All of these are great ideas and are worthy of consideration, especially if you have a large family. When I was growing up we did something similar and drew names out of a hat to determine who we would buy gifts for. It was a secret until Christmas, so it added another element of surprise.
Saving money on travel. There were several good travel tips mentioned, including extending trips or changing the dates of airline tickets in order to save a few hundred bucks. Other comments mentioned flying in and out of different airports, flying to alternative airports, or driving. All are great tips depending on your situation. With holiday travel, it’s best to be flexible! Here are some additional tips on howto get the best holiday travel deals, how to save money with Priceline, and budget travel tips from a travel pro.
Other financial tips. The giveaway didn’t stipulate the savvy money tips had to be related to holiday gift giving, and many people left comments about other aspects of their financial lives. Some of these included open a Roth IRA, refinancing their mortgage, using automatic deposits to their savings accounts, opening an investment account at an online brokerage, and more.
Tips for any season. While most of these tips were written in regard to buying Christmas presents, they can almost all be applied to any time of year. Being savvy with your money takes a little planning and effort, but it’s worth it!
Do you have any savvy money tips to share?