The holidays mean many things to most of us. We all have various traditions we follow – gatherings with family, special outings or rituals with our children. Holiday parties, meals, and gift giving. This time of year can be quite expensive. Yet, you CAN save money during the holidays.
Save Money During The Holidays In 10 Easy Steps
First, decide how much you can afford to spend. Do this before you even go near a store or the computer to begin shopping online. When you are figuring out your budget, don’t overlook the little expenses, such as postage, decorations, charitable giving and even gas for shopping trips. Keeping track of everything will help you end up saving money during the holidays.
Make a list and check it twice
Make a list all of the people you want to give a gift to this year. Decide how much you want to spend on each person, or how much you can afford to spend on each person. If you don’t have enough in your budget for everyone, go back to your list and start cutting people or reduce the amounts for each person. Perhaps consider a secondary list that you can gift with either homemade or crafted items.
If you are already baking cookies for the family, bake an extra batch for the neighbors and co-workers. Spend an afternoon with your children making some crafts and you have gifts for teachers and the mail carrier. Once you have settled on the amounts for each person on your list, stick to them! Focus on the amount you have to spend, not on the item you want to buy. If you don’t have enough to buy that sweater for your sister, find something else.
Utilize Secret Santa
If you have a large family with lots of siblings, in-laws and nieces and nephews, buying gifts for all of them can quickly overwhelm your holiday budget. Using a Secret Santa system will help keep this in control and will ease everyone’s budgets. Some families draw names just for the adults and everyone buys for all of the children, while some draw for everyone.
Use Cash to Save Money During the Holidays
One of the best ways to save money during the holidays is to use cash. There’s nothing worse than getting hit with those huge holiday credit card bills once the festivities are over, and nothing will guarantee a huge hit to your wallet like carrying a balance from the holidays on high-interest cards. If you cannot use cash, use your credit card that has the lowest interest rate and pay off the balance in full each month if at all possible.
Consider using the envelope system. Put the amount for each holiday budget category into an envelope. Once that amount is gone, you are done with that category. If you still need to buy more items for that category, you will need to figure out what you can do without from another category.
Another alternative could be layaway programs. Some stores that offer layaway are Walmart, ToysR’us, GameStop, Kmart, Sears, Burlington Coat Factory, Marshall’s, and TJMaxx. You make a small down payment and pay off the balance(interest-free) over a number of weeks. There are various fees, however, for setting up the service and also if you decide to cancel or miss payments and forfeit. See each retailer for further details to decide if this program is for you.
Do your research before you leave home and have a plan in place . Be sale savvy, know what normal retail prices are. Some stores are known to either markup prices prior to a sale or to just call a normal retail price a “sale price”. Comparison shop between stores and check for price match guarantees.
Use coupons found in Sunday ads or on the store’s website. Obviously one of the biggest ways to save during the holidays is Black Friday. Here again, it is important to have a plan in place before leaving home. While you can score some incredible deals on Black Friday, not all deals are created equal. I can’t say it enough, research! It can also be too easy to get caught up in the hype and throw your budget out the window on Black Friday, so looking through the ads and deciding where you are going and what you are buying before you leave the house will be much kinder to your budget. Blackfriday.com is a good resource for this.
Shopping online has the advantage of not having to leave your home or having to spend any money on gas to get to the stores. You can focus only on what you need, it’s easier not to make impulse buys. It’s also easier to research and compare items while you are online. A great tool for doing this is Pricegrabber.com. To save money shopping online use e-coupons from the store’s website. Amazon always has their 12 days of deals leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you are an Amazon Prime Member you have early access to these deals.
Make sure you are shopping the right stores for the right items. Don’t buy everything at the same place just for convenience. Save money on all those batteries you will need for the kids’ toys and buy them in bulk at a warehouse club. You will get the best deal on greeting cards, wrapping paper and bags at dollar stores.
Allow enough time for your shopping to avoid having to run out at the last minute and paying top dollar for those last few gifts.
You will also want to avoid paying too much in shipping costs, as these add up fast. Of course, if you are shopping at Amazon and are a Prime member, anything that is Prime eligible is free shipping. If you are shopping at other retailers, most have the option of ship-to-store. For a quick trip to your local store, you will save the cost of shipping. Finally, free shipping day is December 16, 2016 which offers guaranteed shipping by Christmas Eve. For a list of participating retailers visit Freeshippingday.com.
Choose Cheaper Traditions
Instead of planning pricey holiday travel or trips to big-ticket attractions, begin new traditions. Spend an evening touring neighborhood light displays. Many towns now have guides published to amazing and breathtaking displays that people put up year after year and often add these displays every year to make them even more spectacular.
Take your children to the local mall to see Santa. If you live in a colder climate, take them sledding and skating, then home to cuddle up with hot chocolate and a favorite holiday movie.
Many families have a yearly day or days where they gather to bake Christmas cookies and other holiday treats. Oftentimes, special recipes dear to the family’s culture are passed down during these times. This becomes a favorite tradition looked forward to from generation to generation.
Embrace the Potluck
If you are the one hosting the holiday celebration, the cost of groceries to feed 20-30 people can add up quite quickly. Not only can the price of all this food throw your holiday budget out of whack easily, the work of cooking all of that food for so many people is really a lot more than we should expect one or two people to do on their own. When you are doing your drawing for Secret Santa at Thanksgiving, assign a dish to everyone to bring for dinner too! Not only will you be saving your budget, you’ll likely save your sanity as well.
Save on Decorations
While it doesn’t seem like a big expense, those holiday decorations can add up quickly. We all want to have a beautifully decorated house for the holiday season, however, this is another area we can easily blow the plan. To help curb that, choose just 3 areas to focus on. You can also add things found in nature and homemade decor to help stretch your budget in this area.
Know When to Stop
Once your shopping is done and your lists are crossed off, that’s it. We all get tempted to go out and buy “just one more thing”, but all too often that just leads to another and another and before you know it, you are way over budget and any saving you have done is down the drain. Not only that but being done gives you more time to relax and enjoy that time with your friend and family and remember the true reasons for the holiday season.