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Holiday Budget Help That’s Practically Painless

Need cash for gifts? Trim a little out of your monthly budget with our tips.

Holiday Budgeting Help

The holidays are coming! It’s an exciting time, but hectic for everyone, especially parents. And the reality of a family’s cash flow seems to have no bearing on how much kids want All of the Things.


There are ways to rein in the overwhelmed panic, starting today. Sure, an additional job is one way to make some extra cash. But if that’s not a viable option, there are other ways to save some cash that will help finance the Present Fund this year.


Shop for Discounts

Some things can be cut out of the budget temporarily, but not everything. For most of us, groceries and housing eat up the biggest chunks of the budget. If there’s one close by, try switching to a discount grocery store, such as Aldi. They don’t always have the brand name items, but they have their own version, which are often tasty (house brands are generally cheaper at other grocery chains, too).

This is the important part: put that extra money into a separate account earmarked for presents and holiday spending! Otherwise, it’s so much easier to spend it on other things.


Negotiate Everything

It’s common to negotiate pay or raises at work, and maybe a new car purchase, but everything has the potential to be a negotiation. Always try, because the worst that can happen is a “no.”  

Negotiate your rent by asking to waive certain fees, including the security deposit, amenities fee, or a pet deposit. Success could mean an initial savings of over $1,000. Negotiating monthly costs — getting your utilities included in your rent, for example, or scoring free use of an on-site amenity like a gym — could net you $50 to $200 monthly.

For most people, the biggest potential savings are in your cable, internet, and mobile phone bills. Aside from rent, negotiations apply to extra utility bills like cable and cell phone plans. Call your provider every couple of months, to negotiate a better deal or convince them to prolong a promotional rate. Or call when you see an especially great promo deal for new customers and ask them to apply it to a loyal customer.


Get Your Apps Together

Apps aren’t just about social media or entertaining your kids at a restaurant. They can save some serious cash on the things we all are going to buy anyway. Target’s Cartwheel app can save hundreds every year and is based on how often it’s used.

When you’re finished shopping, the Ibotta app gives cash back, as much as 5 to 10 percent of what was spent on groceries. Those savings can be traded in for cash back through PayPal, or get gift cards to Amazon, Walmart, and more.

Shopping online? Browser extensions Honey and Ebates can first save you a few dollars on the initial purchase by running various discount codes, and
then earn you cash back afterwards by applying a percentage of cash back to your total, earning you up to 5 percent (or more!) back on what you earning in a check in the mail after a few months.

The Digit app helps you save by putting money into a separate account. It auto-saves money based on account balance and spending. The app invests at least 3 to 5 percent of the money in an account into a separate savings account. Digit tracks bill paying and spending and then transfers what can be counted as superfluous into a savings account. Sometimes it may only be a couple dollars at a time, but it’s something you don’t have to think about once the app is set up.


Try some of these tricks, and you’ll be on the road to the best holiday gift of all: a debt-free new year.



Photographs by Jean Goins.