Some tips to help you stretch your money for the holidays

If you have any gift cards, prepaid cards or store credits, cash them in before it’s too late. When...
Scripps Howard News Service photo courtesy Flickr
Story by Kasey Trenum
Mon, Nov 26, 2012
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Q: We are really low on money this year. I’m looking for ways to make the most of my money besides the traditional money-saving or deal advice. Can you help me?

A: Sure! Perfect timing: I’ve been on a quest the past couple of weeks to make sure that my family is making the most of our money. Here are some ideas that have been helpful to us.

• Do you have gift cards, prepaid cards or store credits? Clean out your purse, kitchen junk drawer or wherever you might have stashed gift cards. When possible, call or go online to determine any available remaining balance. Depending on what you find, consider your gift list. I recently found an old store credit to Motherhood Maternity, the perfect store at which to purchase a gift for my pregnant girlfriend.

• Are there items around your house that you’ve been meaning to take back to the store but keep forgetting to put in your car? Round them up before it’s too late; otherwise, it’s money wasted. Recently I took back a couple of items and ended up with a store credit to Walmart for $16 that I used for groceries, and Bed Bath & Beyond for $45 that I used for K-cups for one of my girlfriends to go with the personalized free coffee mug I’ve already ordered.

• Think strategically when it comes to holiday gift-card incentives. Do you eat at certain restaurants every month, or know you’ll be splurging on a special dinner? Do your research ahead of time and take advantage of gift-card-bonus offers. For example, my husband eats at Subway once a week for lunch. Last year they offered a free 6-inch sub for every $25 in gift cards. If I know ahead of time he’ll spend $50 the next two months, I’ll snag two free 6-inch subs by purchasing the cards in advance. You can really rack up on savings.

• Cash in credit-card points. If your credit card earns points and you haven’t checked your balance lately, now is the time to cash in. A couple of months ago, we redeemed all of our points for Amazon gift cards.

• Take advantage of cash-bonus offers. In years past, ING Direct, an online bank, has offered fabulous cash-bonus offers for opening up a new checking account. Offers included a $25 bonus for opening up a kids’ savings account and/or a $103 bonus for opening up a new checking account.

Happy holiday saving!

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