Home > Personal Finance > 5 Ways to Save Cash Before the Ball Drops

Comments 0 Comments

The day after Christmas means a lot of different things to a lot of different people – obligatory gift returns, post-Christmas sales, pouring the last of the eggnog in your coffee, an end to holiday music in public spaces and on public airwaves. But it also means that 2014 is knocking on the door – as those dreaded holiday shopping credit card bills.

If your budget is feeling as stretched as your girth after a seemingly unending string of holiday parties, you don’t have to ask family and friends to return their gifts. Instead, there are five things you can do between now and when you watch that ball drop on New Year’s Eve that will save you money.

1. Make those post-Christmas returns promptly

Gone are the days when you could return any unwanted gift for cash if you just kept the tags on and maybe returned with a receipt. Instead, some retailers now only offer store credit if the purchase is more than 14 days old; and, if you don’t have the receipt, you’ll get back the lowest price their computers know they’ve ever charged for it. So if you are making returns (for yourself or others), do it promptly so that you get the full value in cash of what you paid for.

2. Clean your closets for a good cause

If your family is anything like mine, the gifts you guys just received from family and friends probably exceeded what little unoccupied space you had to fit it in (especially if you have a young child). So while you’re making space this weekend, take your gently-used clothing, household items — even toys — and donate them to your favorite local charity before Ryan Seacrest and his slightly frozen friends start screaming “Happy New Year” from Times Square. That way, when you do your taxes early next year, you’ll be able to take a deduction for it almost immediately, as opposed to having to wait until April 2015.

3. Let the “Season Of Giving” last a little longer

Although you might’ve had a lovely holiday, there are millions of people throughout the world who didn’t, and could use your help. Plus, contributions to a qualified charity are tax deductible. So scope out your budget and, if you can, make your donations before the end of the year so that you can take a deduction before 2015.

4. Make any big purchases now

After all that holiday shopping, it’s easy to feel either a sense of fatigue with conspicuous consumption or concern about your finances – or both. But if you know you’re going to need to buy a new car soon (or you just have to have that new MacBook Pro), signing on the dotted line before the sun sets on 2013 means that you would qualify to deduct the sales taxes on your tax returns next year – a little tax break that expires when the year does.

5. Check your credit card, bank statements and credit reports now

Since you’re already on your computer, (but only if you’re on a secure connection, please), open a new tab in your browser and review your online bank and credit card accounts to make absolutely sure that all charges you see are actually ones you made. If they’re not, timely reports to your financial institutions can save you time and money. Then check your credit reports, available free once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com, and make sure they are accurate, as well. If they contain either inaccurate or incomplete information, contact the three major national credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and Trans Union) immediately and start their dispute resolution processes. Clearing up your credit reports will help your credit score and save you money in the long run. If you want to monitor your credit more regularly, you can use Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card for a breakdown, updated every 14 days, of the information in your credit report along with free credit scores.

Saving money isn’t always about the latte you give up or the coupon you use: it’s about planning ahead, timing your spending and making sure that you’re making decisions about your finances rather than letting things “just happen” to them. But why are you still reading? You’ve only got a couple days left in 2013 to create a difference for yourself in 2014!

Image: Simon Pix via Wikimedia Commons

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team