How to protect your paycheck during the holiday spending season
Source: Photo by Alex Fu from Pexels

How to protect your paycheck during the holiday spending season

  • Holiday spending is one of the biggest reasons Americans go into debt
  • Discover apps and discount sites to save money during the holidays
  • Tips for saving on flights, road trips, and shopping

It’s that time of year when you’re torn between flying home for your newborn nephew’s first Christmas or skipping out because the holiday airfare is just too expensive. For half of Americans, it can take nearly four months to pay off holiday debt.

Holiday road trips are a great way to make memories with the kids or save money on costly airfare. If you plan to drive home for the holidays, there are ways to save money on a road trip:

  • Use GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas: Enter your zip code or share your location and GasBuddy will reveal the cheapest gas near you. For example, as of publication the Mobil gas station at 2515 Patton St. has the cheapest gas ($2.41/gallon) when you search zip code 54702 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
  • Book hotels last minute if the trip is so long that it takes more than a day to get there. HotelTonight is an app that shows you last-minute deals on hotels near you. You’ll typically get better prices when hotels have unsold rooms for the night. 
  • Avoid toll-roads if possible. Tolls are one of the most expensive parts of a road trip. Luckily, most GPS systems like Waze offer an optional route that has no tolls. If it doesn’t add too much time to your trip, take a few back roads to avoid spending $40 or more in cash tolls.   

To save money on flights, consider the following tips: 

  • Choose budget airlines: Spirit and Frontier may not be the most popular airlines, but these budget airlines are the most cost-effective and they get you to your destination just the same.
  • Add a layover: If you have time to spare, consider adding a short layover to your trip for a much better price. Sites like Cleverlayover help you find cheaper flights with layovers, which is a great way to save money if you’re traveling with the whole family, pet included.
  • Check baggage policies before booking: Budget airlines like Frontier and Spirit may offer cheaper airfare, but they also come with more baggage fees than most standard airlines. Always check the airline’s baggage policy before booking to see if you’re really getting a better price. For example, Frontier charges $60 for a carry-on if you don’t prepay for it online (which costs $30-$45). 
  • Buy your flight early, and book on Tuesday: data consistently shows that Tuesday is the best day to book flights. Plus, flight prices are usually cheapest about three months before your departure date. This might be too late for holiday travel this year, but to give yourself the best chance of getting a low price in the future, book your flight on a Tuesday about three months before your trip.
  • Track fares: use a tool like Hopper to find the best-priced flight without having to browse hundreds of sites yourself. Enter your destination and travel dates and the app will tell you when to book for the cheapest price. 
  • Be flexible with your days: flying on Christmas morning is usually cheaper than flying the day before Christmas. If you’re not meeting the family until dinner time, consider traveling that morning to avoid the cost of flying the day before. 

Saving money on holiday travel is important, but the best way to protect your Paycheck during the holidays is to save money while shopping:

  • Buy discount gift cards from sites like Cardpool or Raise.com. On these sites, people sell unwanted gift cards or cards with leftover balances at a discount. For example, you can get a $200 Southwest Airlines gift card for just $187, or a 6.5 percent discount. Discount gift cards can save you a lot if you’re buying gifts for nieces, nephews, cousins, or grandchildren.
  • Put all your purchases on a cash-back credit card. If your holiday spending budget is $1,000 and you have a 2 percent cash-back card, you’ll get a free $20 for buying gifts you would’ve purchased anyway. Look at consumer reviews to find the best cash-back credit cards before the holiday shopping season begins. 
  • Watch the warranty: For expensive gifts like electronics or exercise equipment, make sure to read the fine print and know the manufacturer’s warranty before swiping your credit card. It’s a good idea to check your credit cards as well because some card issuers extend warranties. Additionally, Consumer Reports suggests steering clear of extended warranties because they’re often a waste of money.

Above all, come up with a budget and stick to it. If you’re wondering how much to spend during the holidays, experts suggest spending no more than one percent of your income. Don’t overspend and be resourceful with your travels give yourself the gift of a happy paycheck this holiday season.

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