Here's How to Increase Your Holiday Budget (Responsibly)

2020 has been rough. We all want some holiday relief.

Black family (father, child and mother) bringing home small Christmas tree and packages Getty Images

We know you want to splurge for the holiday season. Let’s face it: It’s been a crummy 2020, so it’s tempting to try to make up for that by dropping a lot of dough on gifts.

You’re far from alone here. In fact, more than half of U.S. retailers expect 2020 holiday sales to increase “significantly” or at least “somewhat” compared to 2019, according to the National Retail Federation*.

However, this doesn’t mean it’s time to max out your credit cards. That’s no good! The average credit card debt of American households is about $5,700, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve.

We’ve got three quick strategies for how to increase your holiday budget — and how to do it responsibly.

1. Make up the difference somewhere else

Here’s some “found money” for you. Free up some extra room in your budget by finding ways to cut back on your monthly bills — like your current car insurance.

A free website called Savvy will help you find the best rates — in just 30 seconds. In fact, it saves people an average of $826/year.

All you have to do is connect your current insurance, then Savvy will search hundreds of insurers for a better price on the same coverage. It’ll even help you cancel your old policy and get you a refund from your current insurer. Best yet: This is totally free.

If you find a better deal, you can switch right away and don’t have to wait for your next renewal or even your next payment.

2. Take the pantry challenge

This money-saving challenge gives your wallet a break from your normal grocery shopping routine. Skip going to the store for a week, and get creative with the ingredients you have in your pantry, fridge and freezer.

When Penny Hoarder writer Tiffany Connors tried the pantry challenge last year, her family relied on wilted veggies, freezer-burned soy burgers and a random assortment of other forgotten pantry items. But they survived the week and saved about $150 in the process.

Over the long term, try the magic of meal planning. Meal preparation, or meal prep, is a popular cooking trend that is equal parts health- and money-conscious.

The core idea of meal prep is to plan for a set number of days (typically a week) by buying ingredients, cooking your meals or prepping your ingredients and storing them in your kitchen for easy access. Here’s how to make a money-saving meal plan that you’ll actually stick to.

3. Pocket an extra $600 this week

The quickest and most obvious method here might be to make more money.

But this isn’t news to you: You already have a job — maybe two — and you’re exhausted. This doesn’t have to be a forever thing, though, and luckily there are plenty of ways to earn extra cash even if you only have an hour to spare.

Here’s one we like: An app called Doordash will pay you to pick up and deliver food on your own schedule. All you need to get started is your preferred mode of transportation and your smartphone.

You’ll deliver things like coffee from Starbucks or food from Chipotle, Chick-fil-A or Five Guys. You set your own hours and work as much or little as you want, meaning how much you make is up to you.

You’ll earn money for each delivery, plus tips. Jose Neri, from California, reports earning $500 to $600 a week working just lunches and dinners.

If you sign up for Doordash now, it’s possible to get your first paycheck this week.

Bottom line: If you’re looking to boost your holiday budget a bit, those are three real ways to do it.

*National Retail Federation

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.