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The champagne flutes are back in their cabinet, the pine needles vacuumed up, the ornaments packed away — and now the amount of cash you’ve blown this past December is finally starting to sink in.
If your shopping habits mimic those of the typical consumer, that would be a stupefying $936, according to a recent National Retail Federation survey, not to mention additional expenses for parties and travel. No wonder financial debt from seasonal overspending ranks as the number one post-holiday hangover consumers dread after January 1, according to a new survey jointly conducted by LearnVest and zulily, an online retailer.
Luckily there are some simple ways to undo some of the damage. If you’re nursing a financial hangover, these tactics will soften the blow when the bills start streaming in.
Sell Gift Cards You’ll Never Use
Considering that 50% of consumers purchased holiday gift cards last year, chances are you received at least a couple in your stocking. If you’d rather have money to pay down holiday debt, then you’ve got options.
Websites offering gift cards for trade or cold hard cash are all over the internet. Scroll through them all, or head to Gift Card Granny, which aggregates offers from individual sites. Enter in the name of the store the card is for and the balance on it, and the site will spit back a list of offers. In general, cards from big national retailers will score you the most dinero, up to 90% of the card’s face value.
Return Presents You’re Not So Thrilled With
After the holidays, many retailers relax their usual policies when it comes to returns. Amazon lets you return anything they ship out between November 1 and December 31 until January 31 for a full refund, compared to their normal 30-day policy. At Best Buy, you have until January 15 to bring back anything purchased in November or December, up from two weeks during the rest of the year.
Other shops have lenient returns year-round, knowing that most consumers hate the hassle and time suck of sending purchases back. The catch is, if you don’t have a receipt, it’s going to be tough scoring actual cash for the item. But it’s worth a shot. If you strike out and can only get store credit or a gift card, you can still sell that online for actual dollars.
Make the Most of Your Credit Card Perks
If you can, use any points you've earned from making holiday purchases to help pay off the balances you've accrued for those gifts. But if you find that you never redeem your points, then consider switching to a cash-back card.
With so many types of cash-back cards to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know which is right for you. A good starting place is this comparison chart of various cards, which assesses your options based on your particular spending patterns.
Sell Gifts Over the Internet
The online marketplace for previously owned goods is skyrocketing. And stuff that’s still in the original packaging or has tags attached can fetch premium prices or a store gift card.
For clothes, good options are sites like thredUP or Poshmark. ThredUP does all the heavy lifting for you: Just send in a box of stuff and you’ll get 5% to 80% upfront of the price they list each item at. With Poshmark, you snap photos and create listings yourself, but you generally get more bang for your buck: They swipe 20% off the price (which you set), or they take $2.95 off items under $15.
If you’re willing to part with some arm candy, Rebag specializes in designer handbags (send in snaps; they’ll provide a quote); Amazon Trade-In is great for electronics; and Swap is an online consignment store specializing in kids’ stuff.
Go the Regifting Route
Feel guilty wrapping up that scented body lotion from your aunt and giving it to a coworker on her birthday? There’s really no stigma; 83% of people agree that regifting is OK, according to a recent poll. Passing along presents you don’t want won't put money in your pocket — but it lets you save what you have rather than forking it over for gifts this year.
Go through your stash of things and see what you can give and to whom in the coming months. Run the item through this litmus test first: Is it something the recipient would genuinely appreciate? Is it brand new? Are you sure it isn’t engraved or monogrammed? Then you're good to go, and the recipient doesn't have to know you didn't actually pay for it.