If you're like us, Black Friday to Christmas is our most expensive month. Between the latest and greatest Black Friday deals, putting presents under the tree, and (sometimes) holiday travel, our credit card statement is larger than usual. Because the Christmas holidays happen at the same time each year, we use several tools to stay out of debt.
Today, I'll show you a few tools that can help you stay out of debt this Christmas. Plus, a few other tricks you may want to use too.
My wife and I have never ever missed a credit card payment. But, we have had to dip into savings to pay ourselves back. Black Friday is slightly more expensive for us because we also make business purchases during this time too.
For example, we pay $299 a year to host multiple websites. Without the Black Friday special, we would pay $588 a year if we pay by the month.
5 Apps That Force You To Save Money
Do you ever wish you can save you from yourself in the holiday shopping season? That's been us. Even though you're getting a good deal on material objects and traveling to see family, you still spend money.
Thankfully, several apps help you save small amounts of cash throughout the year. Of course, you can also save money in the holiday season, even when you're not trying to.
When you shop online, always see if Rakuten offers bonus cash back. In fact, it's my #1 shopping app. Since you're going to be spending the money regardless, you can get up to 40% back on each online purchase. Then, you get paid by check, PayPal, or gift card each quarter your total rewards balance is worth at least $5.01.
Rakuetn is free to join. Select stores are offering up to 15% back (they usually only offers 2% to 5% back) this Black Friday.
And, you get a $10 cash bonus after making your first $25 purchase with Ebates.
I use Trim to try and lower my recurring monthly bills. It's free and all you need to do is link your accounts. Examples include home internet, cable TV, your cell phone, and satellite radio. I probably save close to $70 a year thanks to Trim's bill negotiation tool.
If Trim lowers, your bill, they keep 25% of the annual savings. That part isn't so cool, but I'm too lazy to call customer support myself. So, even with this fee, Trim's effort is like free money in my pocket.
Digit is a micro-savings app that analyzes your spending patterns. And, when you get paid. Every few days, they withdraw between $5 and $50 and put the cash in a special savings account. They try to use an algorithm that takes a small enough amount of cash that you won't realize it's missing.
You can create different savings goals. So, it's possible to make your Digit savings your Christmas fund!
Tip: Avoid the monthly fee and put money each month into an online savings account. This is how we save small amounts of money each year to help pay for the most expensive time of the year.
Then, they crunch the numbers and help you consolidate your debt so you pay less interest. As a result, you may get out of debt quicker. And, you stop giving free money to the credit card companies. Plus, you can earn credit card rewards on your future payments in the process.
Full Disclosure: I'm not opposed to credit cards. We put basically everything on a 2% cash back card and we pay our balance in full. If you can't pay your balance in full every month, I encourage you to stick with debit cards and cash.
Speaking of credit cards…
If you want the benefits of owning a credit card, but still like the instant payment concept of a debit card, try Debitize. This free app withdraws cash from your checking account each day equal to the amount of your credit card purchases.
So, the amount the withdraw matches your statement balance. Each month, they automatically send the balance to your credit card company to pay your balance in full each month.
2 Other Ways To Stay Out of Debt This Christmas
Besides spending less money on things you don't really need, there are two other ways you can save money!
Having a Family Potluck
Instead of going to a restaurant for your family Christmas meal, have each person share an item.
And, this is a great way to eat healthy on a budget.
Another reason my wife and I try to avoid restaurants in the wintertime is to avoid sickness. Food prep is one of the easiest ways to pass viruses. The winter months are prime time for colds and flu. In my lifetime, I've been sick in the Christmas season several times. So, I like to minimize my exposure by skipping restaurants as much as possible.
Get a Side Hustle
Christmas is a busy time of year with trying to see family and friends. Plus, the office Christmas party. But, it's also a great time to make some extra cash. And, the work is seasonal.
If you have some free time, look for a local seasonal gig. Or, you can get an online side hustle too.
This can make the difference between paying the bills and starting January in debt.
The #1 Rule for Black Friday Shopping
While we've learned to set a spending limit, Black Friday weekend can be a great way to save money if you know exactly what you need. So, we make a list and write down today's prices for these items. If the savings aren't spectacular, we wait to buy.
If you know roughly how much extra you will spend during the holiday season, consider creating a special “Holiday savings account.” This cash covers your holiday shopping and travel purchases.
Are You In
The best way to avoid Christmas debt is to set a spending limit and stick to it. Thankfully, some apps can also help you boost your savings besides saying “No” to items you don't need or aren't' a good deal.
It's not too early to start saving for the holidays.
Happy saving! And, have an enjoyable Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.