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Here are strategies to spread holiday cheer while keeping some cash

Holiday Savings tips from Mountain America Credit Union
Posted at 1:46 PM, Dec 12, 2022

It's that time of year when many people are in the middle of their holiday shopping.

American consumers spend about $1,000 apiece on gifts and other seasonal fare, according to recent surveys.

Jeremy Blair, Vice President of Finance at Mountain America Credit Union (MACU), joined us in studio to share some strategies for spreading cheer while keeping some cash.

Blair says the first thing to do is write down all the people or events you're going to spend on in the next six weeks or so. Think about your immediate family, extended family, friends, coworkers, charities, parties – anyone, anything or anywhere you might want to budget for. Then write down first what your max budget is for each one, and next what you think would be a good gift. Sometimes we don't actually need to spend very much – or even spend anything at all -- to give someone a gift they will really enjoy.

If you do have something in mind to buy, Blair recommends to look for ways you can save on that purchase. Set up price alerts online or look at a price-tracking website like camelcamelcamel.com to see what the lowest price has been on your item historically so you know what a good deal looks like.

Don't forget to use discounts where you can, too. Many financial institutions offer savings as part of their credit card or other products. At Mountain America, for instance, rewards credit card users are getting triple points on purchases through December 31. And for MyStyle Checking members they have access to hundreds of discounts for a variety of stores, theme parks, and services included in their perks. Be sure to take advantage of all those savings.

Blair says you want to earn rewards points on purchases you're already making. Then, you can redeem those points for gift cards, travel, or even just cash back to offset some of that holiday spending. You don't want to spend more just to get points, but the points are a nice way to make your dollar stretch further.

Blair says, "You know, sometimes people feel obligated to spend money on or give a gift to everyone. That can add up, especially if you have a large family. If you look at your budget and it seems like more than you really want to spend, talk with your family about setting limits on gifts, or doing a secret Santa exchange where everyone draws a name and buys just one nicer gift for that person. That way no one feels obligated to spend more than they want to and everyone still gets a gift."

Lastly, if you find you don't have much saved up for this year's gifts be more proactive in 2023. Mountain America offers a Christmas Club certificate account that helps you save throughout the year so you're better prepared when that certificate matures in November. You can learn more about that in any of MACU's branches or at macu.com.