Money at 30: 3 Ways to Stretch Your Last-Minute Gift Budget

In case you hadn’t noticed, Christmas Eve is a mere week away. If your have some shopping to do, not only is time running out but there’s a chance your budgeted cash may be as well. Since taking on debt just to purchase gifts is never a good idea, you may want to look into ways to get the most from what you have.

Luckily, I have a few ideas for how you can stretch your last-minute holiday shopping budget and make it go further.

3 Ways to Stretch Your Gift Budget

Shop online for free shipping

When it comes to holiday shopping, I cannot recommend online shopping enough. This goes double if, like me, you have family and friends spread across the country. Instead of having to deal with the hassle and costs of shipping items yourself, buying them online can help you factor in these expenses and keep you on budget. Better yet, you may be able to take advantage of the free shipping offers from numerous online retailers.

Obviously Amazon Prime is the most well-known free shopping option. However if you’re not a member, you can still get free shipping on select items when you spend more than $25. Alternatively you can get a free trial of Amazon Prime — although you’ll want to remember to cancel before you get charged $12.99 a month.

Meanwhile plenty of retailers have their own free shipping deals if you spend a certain amount. This can be tricky as you may end up buying items you don’t need just to meet this requirement. That’s why I suggest looking up promotional codes to score free shipping or try plug-ins like Honey that can search such codes for you.

Use cashback tools

Another great benefit of online shopping if that you may be able to employ cashback tools to earn yourself a bit of a kickback on your purchases. Personally my favorite in this category also happens to be one of the largest cash back platforms: Rakuten (formerly Ebates).

As great as this tool can be, though, you will need to watch out for a few things. For one, make sure you click the link from Rakuten or activate the offer via their browser plug-in in order to qualify. Additionally, pay attention to what items are eligible as some retailers have restrictions on what items earn cashback. Finally, keep in mind that Rakuten won’t pay out your cashback instantly. In fact, payments are made on a quarterly basis. In other words, while this can technically help you stretch your budget, you’ll need to come up with the extra fund in the meantime.

Cash in some credit card rewards

Finally, if you really need some extra cash to purchase gifts, turn to your credit cards. No — I’m not suggesting you use your plastic to rack up debt. I’m talking about tapping some of the credit card rewards you may have accrued throughout the year.

One of my favorite underrated perks of my Discover It card is that I can access my earned cashback right through Amazon. Similarly select customers can also use their American Express Membership Rewards points on that massive retail site as well as some others. As for other cards, you might consider transferring your cash back to your checking account or simply taking a statement credit.

A word of warning: in some cases, using your credit card points for statement credits or cash may not be the best value. For example, when it comes to using the aforementioned Amex Membership Reward points on retail sites, you may only be getting a fraction of the value you would get if you used points to book travel from select partners. Still, depending on your situation, it may not be the worst option.

With the holidays sneaking up on us once again, surely plenty of us will be scrambling to complete our shopping lists. Moreover, whether you overspent on other purchases or had to add a few recipients to gift-giving plans, your holiday budget may be getting a bit low. Thankfully, by taking advantage of free shipping deals, trying out cashback tools, and perhaps even utilizing your credit card rewards, you may just be able to finish your shopping without carrying debt into the new year. Happy Holidays!


Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site and has recently starting publsihing his own personal finance blog at

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