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Smart Spending: 4 Ways to Maximize Holiday Cheer on a Budget

November 16, 2023

(BPT) - As the holiday season approaches, many of us are already thinking about how we can maximize holiday cheer while minimizing the impact on our wallets. Travel, decorations, parties, gifts — the expenses can add up quickly this time of year, and it’s no wonder that according to Bank of America data, 67% of people anticipate financial strain this holiday season.

Along those lines, many are prioritizing frugality throughout the coming months, as nearly three-quarters of shoppers plan to implement cost-saving strategies this holiday season. Here are four holiday spending tips to help you make the most of the season — without needing to scrounge for cash once the new year rolls around:

1. Get ahead of the game.

Bank of America data shows that by late August, 62% of people had already started preparing for the holidays this year in one way or another, whether it was saving for expenses, buying gifts, updating budgets or making travel plans.

Putting money aside for big-ticket items can also prevent you from depleting your accounts during the holidays. Adjusting your budget now to account for more savings during the holidays is a great way to roll into the season well-prepared, but if you’re not among the 38% who upped their savings game months ago, don’t worry. It’s not too late.

2. Stick to a budget and consolidate gift-giving.

Once you have your holiday savings accounted for, create a budget that outlines who you’ll purchase gifts for and how much you’ll spend for each recipient. And remember, there’s no shame in purchasing fewer gifts this year if that’s what’s best for your family or your finances. In fact, of the 72% of people who plan to implement cost-saving strategies during this holiday season, 55% plan to reduce the number of gifts they buy.

One great way to give presents that people can appreciate, while still purchasing fewer of them altogether, is by considering gifts that families or friend groups can use together. An ice cream or bread maker, for example, is something everyone in the family could enjoy. National Park passes and games are other options that multiple people can experience and appreciate.

3. Use a credit card that rewards you for holiday shopping.

Now that your budget is set, think about shopping with a credit card that will reward you as you check items off your holiday list. Among shoppers actively seeking ways to offset costs this holiday season, 32% reported planning to use credit card rewards to help pay for gifts during the 2023 holiday season. If you’re not one of those people, consider using a flexible rewards credit card to make your money go further — not only over these next couple months but into the new year as well.

For example, the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards card allows you to earn 3% cash back in a spending category of your choice each month, including online shopping (which can come in handy as you prepare for the holidays). It also offers 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on the first $2,500 in combined choice category, grocery store and wholesale club purchases each quarter), and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

As you use your card and see your cash rewards add up, you can redeem them as a statement to your credit card or deposit them directly into your Bank of America® checking or savings account. If you don’t have a rewards card yet, applying for one now and using it to pay for holiday expenses could be a great way to kick-start your rewards earnings for next year’s holiday season.

4. Take advantage of online sales and loyalty programs.

With big sales days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, November is the perfect time to seek out deals on gifts or other holiday expenses. As you consider the best deals, be sure to layer your rewards and loyalty programs to maximize your rewards potential as you shop. First, sign up for loyalty programs at your favorite stores so you can easily determine which holiday deals and discounts you want to take advantage of. Then, consider enrolling in a banking rewards program from your financial institution. For instance, the Bank of America Preferred Rewards® program provides members with a 25% to 75% rewards bonus on purchases on eligible Bank of America credit cards, which can boost your cash back earnings even higher during the holidays.

If you’re feeling the pressure from tightened purse strings as the holiday season continues, take a deep breath. You’re not alone in this. There are ways to safeguard your spending and enjoy a memorable holiday season.

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