What's your holiday savings plan?

Seven tips to help you avoid the seasonal budget crunch.

No matter what you’re celebrating this winter season, everyone wants to give their family something special for the holidays. But having enough money saved by December can be difficult. After all, the average American planned to spend $837 on seasonal gifts in 2021.1 With a little preparation and a holiday savings plan, you can find a gift for everyone on your list—all while staying on a budget you’ll be proud of all year long. Tis the season for saving with these 7 tips.

1. Collect your spare change

This one may seem silly at first, but Americans throw away an estimated $62 million per year in spare change.2 In fact, the average American has $68 in loose change lying around their home.3 Start putting change into a jar and get a healthy start on that holiday savings plan before you’ve even looked at the budget. These extra coins could go a long way toward making holiday celebrations extra special this year.

2. Check your budget

Money may be tight, but even putting just $5 or $10 toward a holiday fund can make a difference. Finding that little bit extra could be as easy as bringing your lunch to work instead of eating out. And, when you multiply that $5 by the 52 weeks in the year, you’re looking at $260 by December. Didn't start in January? Don't worry. Plan to start next year off right with a saving plan or find a shorter plan that works with your current schedule. There are 26-week plans or plans that feel like a game—save a different amount each day and it will add up to $1,000. Being able to put that money somewhere like a separate savings account may make all the difference for that holiday goal.

3. Stash away unexpected cash

If you get money back for a returned purchase, medical insurance claim or miles driven for work, consider adding that to a holiday savings account. It won't be missed because the money was already spent. Allowing those dollars to earn interest will get you to your goal even faster.

4. Get creative with your unused gift cards

An estimated $1 billion in gift cards go unused every year, so chances are some of those unspent cards are in your possession.4 There are several ways to turn that stack of gift cards into holiday savings. Use them to purchase gifts for your loved ones or give the cards themselves as presents. If you’d prefer to turn them into cash, there are websites that will buy unused gift cards. With most of them, you’ll get up to 90% of the value of the card (they take a small cut to cover their fees).

5. Use an app to track spending and saving

There are several choices when it comes to saving money with an app. Some of them will round purchases up to the nearest dollar and then deposit that change into a separate account. Others will take out preset amounts that are saved or invested, depending on your preference. Two of the most popular options are Digit and Qapital. Both give flexible options for setting goal and savings preferences. Most of these savings apps allow you to transfer the money you’ve saved to anywhere you’d like.

6. Be smart about your shopping

As you’re shopping for those gifts (and regular purchases, too), make sure to get the best deal. Platforms like Capital One Shopping scour your emails for recent purchases. If they find the price for something has dropped, they’ll get you a refund for the difference. If you do a lot of online shopping, consider a browser extension like Honey, which searches for (and applies) the best coupon codes to purchases. Plus, certain purchases can earn cash back.

7. Check for credit card rewards

Many credit cards offer rewards, and if you haven't been keeping track, now is a good time to look into what your options are. Some cards give cash back, while others let you turn points into gift cards that you could give as presents or trade for cash.

Bonus tip

It’s a long shot for most people, but you can also check to see if you’ve got any unclaimed money from your state or federal government. Unclaimed money can come from a variety of sources: payroll, tax returns, insurance claims, stock dividends, inheritance and more. There’s no national database to search, but a good place to start is with the federal government and the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.

Now that you know some easy ways to save up for December festivities, it’s time to relax and put those plans in motion. After all, even if you only follow a few of these tips, it’s a good start on a healthy holiday bank account. Not big on seasonal spending? Use these tips to save up for a vacation, big birthday trip or other special times of year.

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