The holiday shopping season is here, and Christmas is a prime culprit in getting people into debt. Lavish gift-giving with no thought to how those shopping sprees are going to be paid for leads people into having credit card bills that follow them from one December to the next.
So to get out of debt, you have to find ways to cut back on your inner Santa.
Of course the most frugal thing to do would be to buy no gifts at all, but that’s easier said than done. Especially for parents,the thought of disappointing their kids is a lot worse than staying in debt for another year.
To have your fruitcake and eat it too, look for ways to get great gifts without spending lots of cash. And I’m not talking about just getting good deals on holiday sales, I’m talking about spending little to no cash at all. Loyalty point programs can help you do just that.
Many people are unaware that redeeming airline miles, hotel points and credit card rewards can get you tons of great gifts without having to spend a lot of cash. You may be on the hook for shipping charges or a processing fee, but it’s still a lot less than even the best Black Friday deals.
Get Merchandise with Points
Rewards programs love to have you redeem points for products, because the exchange value is typically very favorable for them. So you may not be getting a great deal, but you can still save money over charging a bunch of gifts and paying interest on credit cards.
Check to see if your point programs offer a catalog, and match gifts to people on your list. Programs like Marriott Rewards have great catalogs featuring electronics, sporting goods and all manner of other treats.
Some even offer gift packaging and third-party shipping, saving you valuable time during the holiday season by letting your recipients get their goods directly.
Get Gift Cards with Points
Some programs take their partner promotions one step further and allow you to redeem points for gift cards. This is often better because it allows your gift-givees to choose their own merchandise and shipping on gift cards is often free.
For example, the Diners Club Club Rewards programs lets their participants select from a number of national chains to get $50 and $100 gift cards.
Get Started Now
The biggest downside to using rewards points to get free Christmas gifts is that time is quickly running out. You need to allow enough time for shipping, even for gift cards. So if you’re going to go down that path, get hopping and get shopping.
If you haven’t signed up for online access to your rewards programs, you should. This will let you check your point balances and shop over the web, making the process faster and easier to track.