A survey conducted by the American Research Group found that shoppers planned to spend an average of $929 during the 2016 holiday shopping season. This probably comes as no surprise since the end of the year is typically an expensive time for most people. Yet, idea of spending that type of cash might leave a bad taste in your mouth—especially if you can think of better uses for your money. A holiday budget can keep your finances on track. But what if you have absolutely no desire to spend your hard-earned cash this year?
It’s the season for giving, but sometimes, you have to look out for your own interest. Here’s how to get through the end of the year without spending a dime.
1. Take advantage of skip payment options
When I had a car loan through a credit union, about three times a year borrowers were given the option to skip a monthly payment without penalty. Skipping this payment didn’t damage my credit score, and was nice to have extra cash for the month. This might be an option if you have an auto loan with a credit union or another auto financing company. If the company approves your request for a skipped payment, take the money you would have spent on the monthly payment and use it to buy gifts or plan a year-end getaway.
Technically, you’re still spending money. But since this is money you would’ve spent anyway, it doesn’t create a financial burden.
2. Give baked goods as gifts
You don’t have to spend big bucks to show your love and appreciation. The truth is, many people are happy with any thoughtful gesture. So if you enjoy baking and you already have a cupboard full of baking ingredients, there’s an opportunity to give without spending money. Prepare a gift basket of cookies, breads, cupcakes or cakes. Wrap the gift in colorful saran wrap, add a bow, and you’ll have an inexpensive gift that appeals to the taste buds.
3. Don’t exchange gifts this year
Some people never express a desire “not” to exchange gifts for fear of what others will think. If money is tight and you don’t have cash to blow, politely let friends and family know that you’re not exchanging gifts this year. You know your finances better than anyone else, and spending hundreds can derail or setback a few of your financial goals. Take a stand and protect your bottom line. Most of your friends and family will understand and welcome the change, especially if they’re in a similar situation.
4. Give the gift of time
Rather than a tangible item, give the gift of time. Maybe you have relatives or friends who are stressed out and need a break. Could you offer to watch their kids overnight or a weekend so they can enjoy one-on-one time with their partner? Or perhaps you can offer other practical help, such as running errands or helping with stuff around their house.
5. Cash in reward points
A credit card with a rewards program is one of the best ways to get through the end of the year without spending money. If you’ve been letting your credit card reward points accumulate, check your balance to see if you have enough points to redeem for gift cards in small amounts of $10 or $20. Depending on how many points you have, consider an end-of-the-year getaway and redeem points for airfare, hotels or a car rental.
Regifting is a bit controversial. But if you have gifts that you can’t use, and if you don’t have a gift receipts for returns or exchanges, regifting is better than wasting the giver’s money and letting these items collect dust in the closet. When I got married I received multiples of kitchen, household and decor pieces. And unfortunately, a large percentage of my gifts didn’t come with a gift receipt. I felt a twinge of guilt regifting these items, but I’m happy that I found recipients who put the items to good use.
If someone has a need for a gift you’ve been sitting on, this is the perfect time to unload the item. Just make sure you keep a record of who gave what gift, so you don’t regift in the same circle.
The end of the year doesn’t have to be a budget-buster. Some people think they need to spend money to show their appreciation and have a good time. With a little creativity, you can give without going broke.