How to Pay for the Holidays, from Best Ideas to Worst

by Allison Kade

NEW YORK (Learnvest) — We don’t have to tell you: The holidays are expensive.

But what’s the best way to tackle them with your emergency fund intact and your credit card debt under control? (Because no one likes having a financial hangover in January.)

The first step is to create your holiday budget today — and use our amazing how-much-can-you-spend-on-each-person gift calculator, but with Thanksgiving weeks away and holiday fun close behind, if you haven’t started saving already, time may be running out.

Let’s just say that you don’t have 100% of the cash on hand you’ll need for your holiday expenses. Theoretically. What can you do?

We’ve compiled a list of ways you could fund your holiday fun, from the best to the please-promise-us-you’ll-never-do-this! worst.

1. Putting it on a credit card (wisely)

Credit cards only get you into trouble when you don’t pay them back on time, in full. If you can put something on your credit card with absolute certainty you can pay the whole sum back by the end of the month, that’s the best thing besides cash to pay for your holiday gifts. Unless of course you get major points for using your card, in which case, charge away, but set up a calendar alert so you don’t forget to pay off that hefty bill in the midst of holiday madness.

2. Working off of 0% introductory APR

As an incentive to woo customers, some credit cards offer a 0% APR introductory period. In general, taking advantage of that period can be risky — after all, when the period ends your interest will shoot right back up. But as long as you know exactly how long you have before your card starts accruing interest, you can use the lead time to pay it off entirely.

3. Getting scrappy