Holiday shoppers have more money to spend than they think

(BPT) – Having a happy holiday shouldn’t mean stretching your finances paper thin. But many Americans already know they’ll likely go over their holiday budgets this year, which can mean financial stress in the new year. Fortunately, a few unexpected tricks and shopping strategies can help make your holiday dollars go further – and you might even have a few bucks leftover for yourself.

The average person is expected to spend $804 this holiday season, according to a 2014 National Retail Federation survey. Furthermore, 66 percent of Americans who shop for winter holiday gifts report they typically go over their budgets, according to a Coinstar survey, spending an average of $116 more than they planned. To battle the bulk spending, people are cutting indulgences like eating out (53 percent) and entertainment (52 percent).

“The holidays are meant to be a time of joy and celebration, but one thing is certain, we can all use a little extra cash this time of year – for gift giving, holiday meal planning or donating to charity,” said Jim Gaherity, president of Coinstar. “Fortunately for many consumers, extra money is hiding all around – whether it be in the form of coins or gift cards they may never use.”

For example, you probably have more money than you think just in spare change. While Americans with coins at home think they only have $21 in change, Coinstar data shows the average amount customers convert for a no fee eCertificate is $58 – a nice addition to any holiday budget. Those coins can be exchanged for cash or converted into no fee eCertficates so you can buy gifts at popular retailers. Visit for a full list of retail partners and to find a kiosk near you.

Finding unexpected money is a great start to boosting holiday budgets, but to make those dollars go as far as possible, watch sales closely. In fact, discounts remain the No. 1 factor influencing holiday purchases, according to the NRF survey. The best way to shop smart is to start early – not only does this give you time to hunt for deals, it also spreads out holiday spending. Look for BOGO sales (buy one, get one), shop Sunday ads, and download apps that make it easy to compare prices. Track free giveaways for early bird customers when shopping in stores. When shopping online, always seek out free-shipping options which are plentiful during the holiday season.

To maximize your holiday funds, look for additional sources of money. Now is a great time to go through your gift cards, too. Sitting on gift cards that you will never use? If so, consider exchanging them for cash. Coinstar Exchange kiosks let you instantly exchange unused or partially used gift cards for cash so you can buy gifts wherever you’d like! This is also a great option when the holidays are done and you have received gift cards you don’t plan to use.

Holiday shopping can quickly get overwhelming, so to control spending before it gets out of hand, determine a budget and stick to it. Start by making a list of gift recipients to ensure you remember everyone and there aren’t any surprise additions at the last minute. Another budget savvy trick is to always pay with cash; it makes spending money feel tangible compared to paying with credit, plus you won’t have a big bill to pay off in a month when it comes in the mail. There are a lot of ways for shoppers to stay under budget this holiday season; it’s just a matter of getting creative and looking for unexpected ways to boost your budget.

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