How to build a holiday shopping fund in 30 days

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How to build a holiday shopping fund in 30 days

Holiday shopping costs the average American a pretty penny — $967.13 in 2017, according to the National Retail Federation. If you're staring at your bank account, wondering how to make this year happen, we've got your back.

For starters, you don't need to spend as much as the average American. In fact, there are ways to avoid buying people holiday gifts altogether. But if you're saddled with an extra long list, here's how to build a holiday shopping fund in the next 30 days.

1. Turbo-charge your auto-savings

Most banks let you set up automatic transfers from checking to savings on certain days of the week or month. A few of them, like Bank of America, have programs that round up your debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and roll the extra change into your coffers.

If your bank is short on extra savings options, there are plenty of free apps that can help you put together a small holiday fund. Qapital, for example, lets you customize rollovers. You can move a little money out of your checking account and into a savings fund every time you tweet or post to Instagram, for example.

2. Cash in your credit card rewards

The holiday season is the perfect time to cash in all those rewards you've accumulated over the last year. Use miles to pay for your flight to visit family, exchange rewards for re-giftable gift cards and cash in your cash back to lower your current balance. That'll free up money for the items on your loved ones' Amazon wish lists.

Bonus holiday shopping tip: Many credit card issuers let you buy stuff on Amazon using credit card rewards, too.

3. Try a no-spend challenge

Create a list of essentials and avoid buying anything else for a designated period of time — say, the first two weeks of November. Too intense? Pick the one thing you needlessly spend money on and abstain from that purchase through the rest of the year. Common guilty pleasures include your morning latte, weekly pedicure or monthly massage.

4. Amp up your side hustle

If you can't earn more, make more. Thanks to the growing gig economy, there are plenty of side hustles you can get going on the fly. Sell gently used designer duds — or, even, last year's unopened holiday gifts — through apps like Poshmark or eBay. Pick up some freelance work through sites like Upwork or rent your extra space on Airbnb.

In fact, here's how you can get started as an Airbnb host before the holidays.

5. Score a sign-on bonus

Disciplined shoppers (with good credit!) can consider opening a new credit card to score extra rewards on pre-ordained holiday shopping, like that flight home. Many issuers offer signup bonuses to entice new customers. The bonuses are effectively extra points, miles or rewards for spending a certain amount of money within a set time period. So, for instance, new Chase Freedom Unlimited are currently eligible for $150 after spending $500 on purchases in their first three months of opening the account.

A few big caveats: Avoid leveraging this strategy if you're prone to overspending or already saddled with credit card debt. (Use these tips for paying off those balances instead.) And limit yourself to one sign-up bonus every year or so. Applying for too many credit cards in a short time frame can hurt your credit.

Disclosure: This post contains references to products or services from one or more of our advertisers or partners. While these codes earn us a small fee at no additional cost to you, we only refer products we love.

Image: AleksandarNakic