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Money Matters: 13 finance tools and apps to reduce holiday spending

By Amy Osmond Cook - | Nov 27, 2021

Backed-up ports, an overworked trucking industry, labor shortages and high demand mean that you may not be able to rely on your Christmas or Hanukkah gifts to arrive on time — so experts recommend you start ordering them ASAP.

If that doesn’t give you as much time to save up as you were hoping for, don’t worry: There are tons of tools and apps to help you keep costs within a comfortable budget. Here are 13 tools for saving, budgeting, deal hunting and traveling. Check them out so that the season of gift-giving can be stress-free and joyful.

Saving

  1. Enter the amount you want to save and your timeline, and Bank of America’s Short-Term Savings Calculator will tell you how much you need to save per month. If you sign up, you can use a handy tool to track your progress. It may be a little late to set a monthly savings budget for purchases you’ll be making in the next couple of weeks, but it’s the perfect time to make a plan to be better prepared in 2022.
  2. Digit is a saving and investing app that helps you track multiple savings goals. Tell the app how much you need and when you need it by, and the user-friendly interface will make it easy for you to log and visualize your progress.

Budgeting

  1. Mint is a free app where you can create and track a monthly budget. It syncs with your bank and credit card accounts to import transactions automatically, and it categorizes the transactions, showing you at a glance how you’re doing on your budget. For the holidays, you can set up a dedicated holiday savings account so you don’t accidentally spend gift money on something else.
  2. If you’re drawn to the envelope system but don’t want to use physical envelopes and cash, Goodbudget may be a good option for you. It takes the principles of the envelope system but applies it to a convenient app that can be accessed on multiple devices. The free version comes with 10 regular envelopes and 10 “more envelopes,” so if you want to give it a test drive, you could start by dividing your holiday purchases into broad categories like gifts, decorations, holiday baking and travel.
  3. There are plenty of holiday budget tracking spreadsheets online that you can download and use right away and http://Vertex42.com offers a great one that you can download as an Excel spreadsheet or export to Google Sheets. Just enter your budget and actual spending for gifts, cards, decorations, food and other items, and the template will show you how much you end up spending and how much you have leftover.

Deal hunting

  1. Rakuten is a website that gives you rebates for shopping online. You log in to Rakuten, start shopping and start collecting redeemable rewards points, which then translate to cashback via check or PayPal.
  2. Ben’s Bargains lists some of the best deals available on the internet and also offers a customizable Deal Alert feature, so you can keep track of your favorite products within a certain price range.
  3. Zulily: This site offers daily deals geared towards parents. You’ll find brand-name toys, clothing and accessories for kids, clothing and accessories for moms and some menswear, too.
  4. When you add something to your online cart, Honey searches the internet to find the best deals, including on Amazon. This free extension can also watch an item for you and notify you when the price drops.
  5. InvisibleHand sends you a notification if the item you’re considering is available for a better price elsewhere or when the price drops below a percent of your choice.

Traveling

  1. Kayak and Travelocity help you compare prices on flights, hotels and rental cars.
  2. Hotels.com offers a “Price Guarantee” that can match any price that you can find elsewhere online. And for every 10 nights you book, you get one night free.
  3. Waiting until the last minute doesn’t have to mean you get the worst prices and http://Hoteltonight.com gives you great deals on hotels when you need a place to stay “tonight and beyond.”

Gifts may take a little longer than usual to arrive this year, but that doesn’t have to put a dent in your finances! Take advantage of all the tools and apps available to help you keep costs within your chosen budget. With a little extra help, your season of gift-giving can be fun and stress-free.

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